i was thinking about this song today that was written for the popular toy story movies. in particular, i was thinking about these lyrics as sung and performed by Randy Newman, "some other folks might be a little bit smarter than i am..." lol.
you might remember this image from an earlier blog i wrote.
to get there required some rather treacherous hiking over rocks and boulders partially hidden by snow and strewn about with gaps in between. those gaps were drops ranging from a few inches to over a foot deep. some were tight. it was the perfect setup to twist an ankle or break a leg with one wrong step. slow and easy was the cadence of my footsteps on this late afternoon.
it was one of the reasons i hit up my friend tomás alvarez to see if he wanted to check out the lighting of the beacon at split rock lighthouse. the first reason was that we have chatted off and on about getting together at some point to hang out and make some images. tomás is one of those photographers i love to see what he showcases next, his work is stunning and i encourage you to check out his gallery on his website. on top of that, he is a genuine people person who loves to help other photographers when his schedule allows. he is a busy software engineer and a husband/dad with a type a personality. he's a go getter. he's also a guy i look to as one to learn from in regards to photography. here's his website...
getting back to the image above, i was determined to reach a spot that was further up a hill from where i took the above image. it was not going to be an easy hike. in addition to the rocks, boulders and gaps in-between, there would be a lot of brush and a dense treescape to maneuver through. it was the second reason i asked tomás if he wanted to check it out with me. i felt it might be a good situation to have a buddy around in case something happened. i could just see myself in a bad situation from a wrong step or something like that and no one to help me out of it. of course, i would be there for tomás if he ran into trouble. i had tried to get the top of that hill in time the day i took the image above but i was running out of light too quickly. i put it on the back burner for another day with the suspicion that the view could be one that would be worth it all.
in the process of planning the trip, we both started talking about the fact that there could be a path to the top. tomás had seen other images from a similar location, if not the location, that he had been trying to find. tomás inquired from some people he thought might know how to get there. using a trail app and google maps also gave us some clues. i just wasn't sure there was a clear path but i was hoping.
the day came and i left straight from work. the view of duluth as you crest the hill is one that never gets old. it is a fabulous view of minnesota on one side and wisconsin on the other side with the st. louis river/bay in the center, eventually dumping into lake superior.
the two states are connected by not one but two bridges, the john a. blatnik bridge and the the richard i. bong bridge. as you round a curve going down the hill, you can see the historic aerial lift bridge. would you believe this bridge was once traversed by a gondola before being changed to a lift type bridge? while the gondola is long gone, you can still see the aerial lift trusses!
once on iconic hwy 61 (better known as the north shore drive), i continued to a wayside shortly before split rock lighthouse state park and waited for tomás who couldn't leave until a bit later. when he arrived, we geared up and headed down the path, deciding to follow a couple of people ahead of us to see where they went. at one point, they disappeared from view. then we came into view of them and... 'whadayaknow' (spoken in minnesota dialect)! there was another path forking 90 degrees off the path we were on!
i'm mentally slapping my forehead at this point...🎵"some other folks might be a little smarter than i am"🎶... i had endured a very undignified and uncertain hike the last time i was here to get the image above. you know what's even sadder (or funnier from your point of view)? this isn't the first location i've taken a laboriously intensive hike to get to a destination only to discover later on there is a much easier hike. i seem to have the occasional predisposition to take the hardest hike to my destination. i could say it's the primal man in me that chooses such routes and adventures. but truth be told, it's the uninformed in me. lol.
within five minutes the path, while it did not take us to the spot i was hoping to end up at, took us to at least its equal, if not better. what a view! we arrived as golden hour was in play. here's a couple videos to give you a sense of the view we had...
we spent a little over two hours soaking in the views and making images from the top of our little part of the world.
even with the smoke and haze from the wildfires happening to north and west of us, the views were superb. while the path to get to this summit is easy, i was pleased to see it still looked like people respected the "leave no trace" ideology. I confess to becoming disillusioned by the increasing amount of graffiti and lack of respect for the surroundings. here's hoping it stays that way as present and future hikers trek to this spot.
i mentioned earlier tomás is a real people person. he graciously allowed me to move
closer to another spot on the summit when a fellow photographer vacated it. it would have been a great spot for either of us. i currently have only one lens for my camera and it is a small zoom on the wide angle side. he said he could get by with his longer zoom. that's just the kind of person he is. wherever you are, whatever you are doing, work to be that kind of person in life in general. i'm speaking to myself as well. we live in an increasingly volatile world. wouldn't it be great if we could each be a bright spot in someone else's day?
my interest from this vantage point was to make an image that tells a story of the isolation of the lighthouse. on three sides, she is surrounded by lake superior. while i did crop in from the back of the lighthouse, there wasn't much there except a few buildings and forest back in the day, they had to transport all the materials to build the lighthouse by supply boats and haul it up the cliff via a hoist. you can get a sense of the scale of the cliff the lighthouse is perched on by the boats in the water in the image. they are like mere dots. this image was taken shortly after the beacon was lit up. take a look at this brief article about the construction.
there were no roads that one could just mosey on up and pay a visit. so i can imagine keepers of the lighthouse were living a lonely existence, albeit an important one. the first keeper (orren "pete" young) never had his family live with him outside of the summer months. the second keeper (franklin covell) also only had his family live with him during the summers the first three years or so before they moved to the lighthouse permanently with him. can you imagine weathering the storms of november and the long winters while living there alone? granted, there were assistants that helped both orrin and franklin so they weren't totally alone when family wasn't around. i still can't help but think the isolation from being around a larger community might have been hard to deal with at times. perhaps something akin to the pandemic for those of you that were completely isolated?
after a little over a couple hours of hanging at the summit making images, tomás and i headed back to our vehicles. we decided to reconvene at gooseberry falls state park just back down the road a bit. tomás had been to a rugged shoreline before next to agate beach within the state park and thought it would be a good spot for making some astrophotography images. i was more than game as i had never been to that particular location. we arrived in the pitch black. while unloading, a park ranger drove up to us. we had passed him earlier while driving in. he was kind of tucked back in off the main drive. i didn't understand what he was saying due to my hearing but tomás stepped up again. the park ranger said the park was closed but tomás let him know we were just hoping to make some images of the sky. the ranger gave us permission and we continued on with our headlamps lighting the way.
i fell in love with the location as soon as we crossed from walking on the earth's "carpet" onto the rugged rock leading to the shoreline. i was excited to do some light painting of the alien looking landscape. it was pocketed with ravines and holes molded from repetitive strokes of lady superior's fingers swerving over the rock and her hand just outright "breaching" the waters and pounding the rock over the millenia.
we set up alongside some old stone pilings still connected with heavy chains. as we set up, every few seconds the light beam from the lighthouse up the way a few miles pierced the darkness like a giant was scanning the skies with his flashlight. a very short distance beyond the chains was a drop-off; whether to the water or agate beach i couldn't tell. while it was dark and hard to see (we had our headlamps off or on red to adjust to the night sky), i could tell falling off the edge would not be enjoyable.
i spent a little bit of time trying to light up the pilings and rocky plateau while tomás made some images. i used my remote to trigger my camera while i was light painting. i won't lie; with all of the ravines and pockets, trying to walk steadily by the light of a small lume cube i was using for light painting was not an easy task. it was more of a herky-jerky dance. i was simultaneously trying to watch where i was going as well as light up the pilings and landscape. i finally ended up trying different spots to put a couple of lume cubes down and light up an area. safer by a long shot and more consistent lighting 😂.
tomás made an absolutely gorgeous image of the big dipper in the sky over the pilings. i don't remember if he captured it while i was walking with the lume cubes or having placed them in a couple locations. I can't share the image here as i have not asked permission but you can check it out at this link. again, remember this is tomás' image, not mine...
as for me, i've a couple to share from the shores of lake superior within gooseberry falls state park. these two images do require scrolling to look at. if you simply click on them, it will open up in a window where you can see it the whole image without having to scroll. as a reminder, you can always click on any of my images and they will open in a new window. it might be easier to look at with no writing surrounding them.
this is a vertical panorama made up of eight images. the foreground of this image is a single long exposure of a minute. i utilized no light painting to bring out the foreground. the other seven images were set up to expose for the milky way. i shifted the lens every so slightly upward with each image. i've discovered that sometimes LrC (my editor software) will not be able to merge images with normal overlaps to create a single image when it is darker. to be sure i didn't lose that ability to create a panorama, i maximized the overlap. after i merged the seven images into one image, i blended that image with the first image to create the image above. by doing this, i am able to show more of the milky way then my lens would allow me to with just one image.
I really wanted to make an image that gave some small sense of the scale of the milky way. what you see here is not the whole milky way. this early in the path of the milky way in the sky, the galactic core (the bright areas of the milky way) is still pretty close to the horizon. some of the milky way is still below the horizon. it is a bucket list of mine to photograph the milky way where the whole arch is overhead. maybe someday....
this second image was made almost at the end of our time of making images. as tomás was finishing up, i had turned my back to the milky way and was experimenting with lighting up a piling with the big dipper overhead. this is a single exposure image. while the image was being exposed, i light painted the piling and chain. during the exposure, a satellite was captured cutting through the upper left of the cup of the big dipper. satellites differ from shooting stars or meteors in that they are pretty much the same diameter from end to end. shooting stars or meteors tend to taper off going from one end to the other.
shortly after making this image, tomás and i packed it up. actually he was already packed up and waiting for me. did i mention he is a gracious guy? he is a lot, in that regards, like gary arands, another fellow that i try to get together with from time to time. we walked back to our vehicles, said our goodbyes and hit the road. while we looked forward to the bed we'd be crawling into after driving for several hours, we both agreed the night was well worth the adventures of this particular evening along the shores of northern minnesota. i was particularly glad tomás made this photo expedition with me. who knows, i could still be trying to get through the trees, rocks and other natural goodies to get to the top of that hill and back that i had in mind!
i'd love to hear what you think of this blog! did it strike a chord with you? maybe some of you have made similar hikes only to realize there was an easier way. maybe you came upon a location that made you feel on top of the world, literally or figuratively, maybe you have an unforgettable moment that has stuck with you all these years whether "out in the wild" or "in the concrete jungle". i'd love to hear about it in the comments below! if you haven't yet, just sign in this one time to post a comment (it'll show up when you try to comment). after that, you'll be "recognized" and won't have to sign in any more to post comments.
some of these images (my images, not tomás' though his might be available on his website) are for sale. if they capture your imagination or strike you as the perfect one for that special someone, check it out in my online store or send me a message using the contact form below. art pieces make great visual statements and conversation starters to have in your house and/or your business. i'll be happy to help you through the ordering process should you have any questions.
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thanks again for your support! i'll see you next time with. more "images from a quiet world"!