Thursday, April 30, 2009

Little Bells

Bell-shaped white flowers dangling from their stem.
Pretty little bells on their stem.
If you like this photo, you can order a print!

I have no clue what these pretty little flowers are, but they a certainly pretty -- and also little. I found these a while ago, up on the old Q&TL railroad, lit up by the sun. Enjoy!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Cliff Falls

A seasonal fall near Phoenix
Prints of this photo are available at my photo store!

We've had a crazy spring so far, as some of my previous posts have indicated. We've had the normal melt, from a pretty snowy winter. Then we had the surprising late-season blizzard, followed by a rare thunderstorm, followed by even more rain! So, waterfalls are flowing very well.

I found this little seasonal fall on the old railroad (and current snowmobile trail) between Phoenix and Eagle River. This little seasonal stream falls down in a small gorge which is totally dry all of the rest of the year. But for just a few weeks, we have this beautiful series of falls tumbling out of the cliffs. Enjoy!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Heikki's Rage

You might have heard -- we had some crazy weather up here during this past week. After a week or two of good old fashioned warm weather, most of our snow and ice were gone, and things were looking up. Well, Heikki Lunta must have thought we were getting our hopes up a little too much, and he decided to drop a few feet of snow on us. Yes, feet. Painesdale got two of them.

Inspired by this, I have developed a partial classification of Keweenaw seasons. Beginning in January, we have:
  1. Winter: you know what this is. A joyous time of snowshoeing, cool crisp nights, and enjoying the lone snow-shoveler exercise plan.
  2. Fake thaw: About 1 week in late February. Just late enough to fake you out, give you hope that winter may actually be over, and topple snow statues. A cruel joke.
  3. Winter's revenge: The return of winter after the fake thaw. Its purpose is to crush your spirit and remind you that winter is not even close to over.
  4. Thaw: This is the real deal: the end of the main part of winter. Its main characteristic is the massive melt-off of snow and ice -- filling streams and making waterfalls appear out of nowhere. Note that nothing is growing yet, and there are usually snow and ice left on the ground.

  5. Heikki's Rage: Winter's last hurrah, when Heikki Lunta throws everything he has left in one final storm. This almost always happens in the form of a blizzard or heavy, wet snowfall late in April or early in May.

  6. Spring: About one week in which flowers and all kinds of plants finally poke their heads through the ground. Almost immediately becomes...
  7. Summer: About 3 weeks months of varying degrees of heat and dryness.
  8. Fall: One cool month at the end of summer. Pleasant.
  9. Indian Summer: or, Summer's Revenge: reminding you that heat is still your enemy. This is about a week of pure hell in early October, just after the new students have started to think "well this isn't bad at all!"
  10. Autumn: When the leaves turn, and everything is beautiful, cool, and earthy for a while. It lasts all too little time.
  11. The Blahs: That in-between time when all of the leaves are down (or brown), and mother nature is trying to snow, but it just comes out as rain. Neither autumn nor winter, this is the least interesting season of the year. But eventually, we give in, and come right back to...

  12. Winter (again).

We just finished Heikki's Rage, and are quickly moving in to true Spring. The 10 inches of snow -- 21 in Painesdale -- has almost entirely melted, and it was above 60 today, just a day later! We had a couple days of very difficult driving... it seems like the snow plows were all put away for the season! But I can see buds on the trees and crocuses popping back up out of the earth, so I have no doubt that the real spring will be here soon.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Council of Dave

Six blue, ghostly faces lined up above short pillars, staring into the distance.
At night, the Council of Dave gathers on Quincy Hill

Lo, the Daves are Legion, and on cloudless nights they appear on Quincy Hill and pass judgment upon those who have sinned against our land. Yea, fear the council of Dave, all ye who throwest thine old washers and dryers down in the Quincy ravine! Beware, spray-painters of ugly graffiti (especially ye who cannot spell very well)!

So yes, I had fun with my new LED flashlight. It took me several nights to get this just right, but boy was it fun! This photo is taken from the scenic turnoff on US-41 near the top of Quincy Hill -- that's Houghton you can see in the background. I probably frightened more than a few drivers, when I was kneeling behind these posts, shining a bright bluish light on my face, in the middle of the night. If you're interested in the secrets of this photo, ping me in the comments -- I'll keep quiet for now so as not to spoil the surprise.

Edit: Having been up for a few years, I suppose that it's only fair to share the secrets. I wrote a detailed account of the taking of this photo on Digital Photography School: The Council of Dave: fun with light painting. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Purple Crocus

A bright purple crocus, lit by the sun from behind
It's spring up on the hill!

Now it's really spring -- the crocuses are out! This lovely purple one was blooming up on Quincy Hill. I caught it in the late afternoon when the sunlight was lighting it up from behind. We still have plenty of ice and snow, but not too much more is falling -- until of course the traditional graduation day blizzard.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Spring Pine

An intensely colored pine cone and needles, with warm sunlight and shadows.
A pine cone on a late afternoon in spring

It's spring for real! I know it, because the flowers are starting to come up. This is one of several photos I'll be featuring from a recent walk around the hillside below Quincy. This pine cone was wonderfully lit in the late afternoon light. The colors are straight out of the camera -- no editing!

Monday, April 13, 2009


Huge steel beams meeting at the bottom of the photo in a geometric composition. They are bolted into cement -- rusted, decaying, and lit by warm light.
The Redridge Steel Dam: still going strong

A couple of weekends ago, we headed out to Redridge to check out the Redridge Steel Dam -- one of the truly lost and beautiful ruins of the Keweenaw.

A bit of history first: Redridge is a tiny town on the Lake Superior Shore, where the Salmon Trout river flows into the lake. During the height of the copper mining boom, two mines -- the Atlantic and Baltic -- both built their copper processing mills on the lake near here. Mills required millions of gallons of flowing water, and so the mines made a deal to jointly build a dam across the river. The ultimate result was this giant steel dam, built in 1901, and one of only three dams of its kind ever built in the US -- and only two of them are still standing. The dam was only used for a few decades before both mines closed down, and ever since it has been left, abandoned.

The thing that makes this kind of dam unusual is that it isn't just a giant wall across the water, trying to hold back the force on its own. The dam is actually sloped, with a huge network of steel beams on the downstream side. The force of the water actually presses the beams downward, helping to anchor the dam in place. It's a clever design, but one that never really caught on.

Nowadays, the dam is a photographer's dream -- those steel beams make for amazing lines, shadows, and geometry. This photo was taken around the back of the dam, where some of the main supporting beams meet the dam's cement base. The light shining in is coming through some holes which were cut into the face of the dam many years ago, to help drain the reservoir and keep it from overflowing.

Oh, and how is the dam holding up? Surprisingly well, for being totally untended for nearly 100 years. A Senior Design team here at Tech recently assessed the stability of the dam. Despite the fact that water runs through those holes and slowly corrodes the steel every spring, the dam is still very solid -- apparently the dam was overengineered so much that it will probably survive for another hundred years. But just in case -- if you're in the area, stop by and check it out soon!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Manganese in the Melt

A waterfall falling into a deep gorge.
Manganese falls in the spring melt

Manganese falls is one of those places that is hard to photograph: most of the summer, there's almost nothing there (such as when I visited Manganese falls in summer 2008). This view is from nearly the same angle as that one, except -- there's water! Thank goodness for the spring melt, which makes even tiny cliffs into roaring waterfalls.

For those not living in the UP, Manganese Falls is located up near Copper Harbor, on the road which heads back to the old Clark mine (which, clearly, must have something to do with me!). The stream is very short, connecting two lakes which are only a mile or two apart. It's a very lovely grove, and a nice deep gorge, but the falls are at a strange angle -- they flow over the edge and beat against another rock wall, and then flow out perpendicular to the original flow.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Wet Rocks

Several red, blue, and green stones buried in textured sand.
Damp stones at Great Sand Bay

This photo comes to you from my parents' favorite place to visit in the whole Copper Country: Great Sand Bay! This lovely bay north of Eagle River is just what it sounds like: big, broad, and with a wonderful sandy beach -- which is very unusual here in the Keweenaw. It's also located just south of Clark's Point which, although I have nothing to do with the name, I still like anyway.

This photo comes from a couple of weekends ago, when we stopped by Great Sand Bay on our spring waterfall tour (yes, more waterfall photos coming -- I promise). The things you can't tell from this photo are the surroundings: just a few feet away, the bay was still mostly frozen over, and a thick fog was rolling in off of the lake. But the beach itself was clear, and the rocks and sand were damp from the fog, rain, and general melting. I was attracted by the texture of the sand, and the arrangement of these rocks.

Our next stop after this were Manganese falls -- more soon!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Quincy Ghost

A night view overlooking Houghton, with a ghostly figure looking on.
A ghost watching over Houghton in the moonlight.

I enjoy night photography -- moonlight gives everything a wonderfully strange appearance. During the last full moon, I snowshoed out onto the old Quincy rock pile and played around with my camera and tripod. The rock pile has this strange arrangement of stones put together by someone, a lovely place to sit and rest. One of my photos came up with a strange result... this ghostly figure watching the Houghton hillside. Who could it be? What long dead miner or farmer could this be? What does it all mean?

Well, not to keep you in suspense for more than a paragraph -- it means that I was having fun with long exposures. This was one of the results -- a ghostly self-portrait, overlooking Houghton. Look carefully and enjoy!