I don't know about you guys, but winter is going way too fast for me. I have a lot of projects that I was planning on getting done before Spring arrives (such as transfer all those home movies to DVD and get the kids' scrapbooks updated from when they were 5), they still aren't done and I have a busy couple of weeks coming up. Unless we have a really snowy April, by the time my upcoming plans have taken place, we will probably be wearing shorts and hanging out in the yard because it will be nice enough to do that. Then new projects will have a way of politely announcing priority, such as gardening and yard work, planting flowers and making rhubarb crisp. If they don't get the proper attention at the right time, we all know who moves in: the Weed family and it is extremely hard to evict them once they've established residency.
I realized after a closer look at the calendar that I will miss seeing Charlie Parr when I am in California. He's actually going to be there the night before I arrive and then the next gig he has is in Los Angeles. My workshop will have started by then and even if I was open, I am WAY too chicken to drive a car in Los Angeles. I've never been there but I have heard stories and I am pretty sure I should never operate a motor vehicle there unless something weird happens and I move there or something. I'm not even sure Minnesotans are allowed in L.A. Except if you're a celebrity like Charlie. So that is a bummer but maybe by some bizarre coincidence he will fill his open night with a show in the town I am staying in. That would be pretty awesome and amazing. I will be sure to tell you if it does happen.
I am back at the Minneapolis Photo Center these days scanning more film. I have to tell you, I am still a big believer in film. Even though I love the instant gratification of digital cameras, when I can force myself to use the film camera, I am always happy with the results.
Last Fall when I was up north, I set my alarm for way too early and hardly slept a wink because that's what happens when I know I have to shoot in the morning. I am so worried that I am going to sleep through my alarm or that the alarm won't go off that I toss and turn all night and am usually relieved when the clock finally says 4:30 or whatever time I need to get up. So anyway, here I am, my first morning and I get all my stuff and get to the parking lot and start walking out in the dark. I find a spot to plunk down the tripod and what do I see blasting right through the sunrise sky? A big, old uninvited contrail. This one was of the variety that sticks around forever and ever. So this guy announces that he's staying till at least lunch time and I'm wondering what to do now? So I decided to do a little experiment to blog about. I shot that big ole' contrail sunrise with all 3 cameras I was lugging with me. We'll talk about why the 3 cameras another time. So the question is...which is better: 35mm film camera, medium format film camera, or digital camera. Of course the scans don't look quite as good as the originals, they are a little darker so I'm not sure this is a fair comparison. Also, slightly different lenses on each camera. At any rate, leave your comments if you'd like and weigh in your opinion. I would love to know what you think.
Ok, here are the identities revealed:
#1 is medium format with Velvia film
#2 is digital
#3 is 35mm with Velvia film
Last January I was on a photography expedition and headed out one morning at about 5:30 a.m. to catch the sunrise. That's pretty early for winter, but there was a full moon and I knew I'd be able to catch it setting before the sun came up. I was fully outfitted with multiple layers, very little skin showing, and toe warmers to buy a little extra time before I had to come in and warm up. My biggest concern was being all alone on the lake and possibly getting sized up as a tasty bowl of Frosted Flakes breakfast cereal by a traveling wolf pack.
It was unbelievably still and peaceful out there. Not a sound was to be heard. I took my time getting across the lake, photographing the full moon when the composition looked good, and made it to the car about 45 minutes later. My next destination was 3/4 mile down the road with another hike from there. I could have walked the entire distance but since I was trying to beat the clock and reserve any warmth I had left in my body for the sunrise shoot, I wanted to get there without further delay.
Once the car was parked, I hiked up about 2 blocks of incline and maybe another block or so of flat terrain when I found a spot to work from. I was on the edge of a cliff and the temp was around 1 degree F. The wind would have felt nice on a hot day, but this morning it was gusting over 20 MPH and that made it feel like below zero temps.
I quickly learned the biggest obstacle I was facing was my own breath. I am no stranger to working in wintery conditions but this had never happened to me before. Despite having my face covered with a ski mask, my breath was freezing on the filter and all around the back of the camera. The real problem was the filter though. They are necessary to hold the sun back when it is that close to rising. Sunrise colors change by the second and even 5 minutes of waiting could be a deal breaker. I tried to wipe the filter off but to no avail. I had to take off my gloves and use the warmth of my fingers to melt the ice and that meant exposing my hands to the bitter cold.
It really wasn't working but there were some other filters I was able to try. That's about when I realized how much my toes were starting to hurt. The toe warmers seemed like they weren't doing anything. I knew I had to get back to the car and fast. When I got there, I took a self-portrait to show the frozen hair that had sneaked out of my cap and scarf. That's the same culprit that was creating havoc with my filters.
I sat in the running car hoping it would generate some heat so I could thaw out before had to face the hike back across the lake to camp. Even the car didn't want to warm up, so I finally headed back encouraged by the warmth the lodge would bring.
Now that I am about to embark on my next journey up there, I am a little wiser for the wear. My trusty old Sorel boots which I have worn since college won't be going with me on this trip. I have invested in a pair of Steger Mukluks. This pair. Some of the warmest ones they make.
I bought the extra wool and reflective foil liners for maximum heat retention. They were expensive but I don't ever want to end a photography gig again due to frozen toes. Word out there is that these are the best and I'm about to put them to the test.
In the meantime, here is a link to Steger Mukluks:
Until next time, I hope you all have a very Happy Valentine's Day and thank you for stopping by.
Originally published Jan. 21, 2012
Have you ever heard someone give this sage advice: When you are watching a sunset turn around and see what is going on behind you. It is true that the golden light of sunrises and sunsets is beautiful to look at from every angle, whether you are facing the sun drop or rise, or watching it drape everything else in a sheer curtain of amber color.
Since I have a habit of being tunnel visioned anyway and it gets drastically worse when I'm looking through a camera, I have developed a routine of looking behind myself when I am out shooting. I do this for several reasons. One is to make sure I'm not missing something and two is to do the critical check for any black bears that might be sneaking up behind me. So far I've only seen a chipmunk and a raccoon, thank goodness! My bear bells must be working.
Last fall, I went up to Palisade Head in Tettegouche State Park for the full moon in October. As I was waiting for the sun to rise the next morning, I decided to make that obligatory turn behind me and look what I saw!
I could hardly believe my eyes. What had seemed like an eyesore the day before, this 324 foot radio tower took on some otherworldly glow as the full moon was setting behind it. I'm thinking my old buddy Joe Reifer would have loved this site. If you want to see some cool, out-of-this-world photography, check out Joe's website at:
I am a photographer who lives in Minnesota. I blog about Minnesota, photography, music, food and miscellaneous topics.