My Oak Friends

My very first visit to the Lake Cornelia Nature Trail resulted in some ethereal images of oak trees with dead leaves against a gray winter sky. It was a real turning point in my photographic style. So when I revisited the spot last week, I turned my eye skyward again to check out my oak friends. This time the leaves were a soft green and the sky was spring blue. A totally different feeling.


The winter images were about loss and mourning. These images speak to possibilities and hope. An image should evoke a feeling or tell a story, otherwise it’s just a pretty picture. I know, because I have taken literally thousands and thousands of pretty pictures over the last 35 years.


But does evoking a sad feeling make for a stronger image than evoking a happy one? I don’t necessarily think so. If you look at an image and it makes you feel joyful, I’d argue that’s a pretty strong image. These images make me happy. There’s something to be said for that.


Spring is here. The days are getting longer, the sun is getting brighter and life is literally bursting out of the ground everywhere you look. If that doesn’t make you feel hopeful, I don’t know what would.

The Greening

With the arrival of spring, I decided it was time to revisit the Lake Cornelia Nature Walk. The trees were busting out with new leaves and I wanted to capture that fuzzy green veil that the trees have just before they fully leaf out. I knew it would be too late by the time we returned from Phoenix, so I made it a priority to spend an hour there last Sunday. It was well worth the time, as you will see over the next few days.

Just to shake things up, I decided to reverse the direction of my walk from previous trips, so the wetland bridge came first.

Then I just took one of the random paths through the woods to circle back around to my starting point. I only spent about an hour there, but it felt like much longer. It’s such a peaceful spot.

It’s hard to believe I’ve lived just minutes away from this place for over twenty years and only first visited it in January. Now I can see visiting weekly in order to satisfy my need for a photography fix.

Remains of Duluth

I’m currently in Phoenix. My husband and I flew down on Wednesday and will be staying here for a week. I did not bring my camera (shudder) so I’m hoping to catch up a bit on posting my backlog of photos.

Today’s post is packed with all of the remaining photos I want to share from my trip to Duluth. The first one is from The Blind Pig.

The next two are photos I took from the hotel balcony just after the sun had set. I couldn’t really decide which one I liked most.

If forced to choose, I’d probably have to go with the second one. The blue color and lighting in the clouds evokes a feeling of melancholy.

Next up is an abstract image of some dead plants in front of a tree.

Then some of the same plants with a single foreground stem in focus. These two are both from Agate Bay.

This image of tiny pine cones is from our stop at Sugarloaf. I cropped out about half of the background. I should probably add a texture.

Finally, a very abstract image of birch trees, also from Sugarloaf Cove. So there you have it, the remains of Duluth. Now I just have three more short photo outings to feature – Lake Cornelia, Arneson Acres and the Arboretum. Given the warming weather and explosion of things growing, I’m sure I’ll be out with my camera again before I finish posting photos from those outings. It’s going to be a beautiful summer.

Multiple Exposure Magic

When I finished my short journey to the Duluth lift bridge and back, I rejoined Jane sitting on the bench near the locks of love and experimenting with in-camera multiple exposures. It’s a nifty feature.

So naturally I joined in and we started seeing what we could do with the clouds and the horizon. A little Salvador Dali, don’t you think?

Then I tried a few with just the clouds and the sky. Okay, not great.

So I went back to including the horizon. The only problem with this technique is that it makes me a little dizzy. Next we tried layering the clouds on top of the lighthouse and breakwater wall. But the lighthouse got a little lost amongst all the clouds.

So then I tried dramatically underexposing the clouds in order to get a softer effect, kind of like fog rolling in. I really like how this turned out, but wish the lighthouse was more prominent in the image. I’m looking forward to trying this again in the future.

Mandatory Lift Bridge

After photographing the locks of love, I set about my mandatory task of photographing the lift bridge. I didn’t bother trying to include the entire or even the majority of the bridge in any of my photos. Yawn. We’ll leave the pedestrian shots for the tourists. Instead I looked for some interesting angles to photograph the bridge structure. I probably could have used a longer lens, but all of these images were taken with my Lensbaby.


This image was taken underneath the bridge deck. Looks like I didn’t get any of it in focus, but I like it anyway. Or maybe because of.

Okay, I guess I did get one image with a large section of the bridge – or rather its reflection in a puddle. I was actually trying to get a photo of the lighthouse at the end of the breakwater reflected in a puddle, but people get getting in the way and I finally abandoned my attempts. As I was walking away, I noticed the bridge in another puddle. Perfect.

Locks of Love

On my last morning in Duluth, Jane and I went down to the lake walk to photograph padlocks. Yes, padlocks. Specifically love locks.

They were attached to a pier pillar that we could see from our hotel window. I’m sure you are familiar with the love lock phenomenon that threatened the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris to a point where they are trying to make the bridge lock-proof.

I started, as I usually do, by getting really close with my Lensbaby and focusing on details of individual locks, such as these two.

This time that technique failed me. The above two images were they only ones out of dozens that even remotely worked. I scratched my head. Was it that the individual locks were all pretty generic hardware store fare and not particularly photographic? Maybe, but I had the feeling that was not the only problem with my approach. So I stepped back, both figuratively and literally.

What I realized was that each individual lock failed to tell the story of the locks as a whole. And what is a photo but a visual story? I found one cool, antique lock and made that the center of the next two images, but included its brethren and a bit of the background in order to tell the story of the love locks. In the end, I learned that sometimes if your image is not good enough it’s because you’re too close.

Agate Bay New Style

Based on yesterday’s post, you knew this was coming.

I seriously debated titling this post “Blurry, Blurrier, Blurriest.” All three of these images feature the same patch of grass and cattails. At least, I think they’re cattails. Kind of hard to tell.

The angle changed slightly, but the only major difference is the decreasing amount of focus in each image. This is the biggest thing I play with these days.

I’ll let you in on a secret. These were shot in reverse order. I started super blurry and then gradually increased focus. It’s kind of the way I’m seeing the world these days.

Agate Bay Old Style

As usual, I got a little ahead of myself. Before experiencing the calm beauty of Sugarloaf Cove, Jane and I visited Agate Bay.

I’m considering this post “old style” because these images are throwbacks to my previous style of photography. They’re good and I like them, but I don’t really feel they represent who I am as a photographer now. Wow, that sounds pretentious.

Still, I’ll never completely abandon “realistic” style photos, especially when I’m traveling. I can’t forget my roots. It’s just that I’ll feature less and less of these types of photos as I move forward.

A Little More Sugar

After my little quasi-religious experience in the pine trees near Sugarloaf Cove, I walked the loop trail through the nature area. I saw the couple who had passed us in the woods twice more from a distance. Other than that, I was alone. I brought my phone with me, but of course soon realized there was no service. So I tried really hard not to trip and injure myself. Not that I was thinking about something like that happening.


It’s not a very long trail, so I quickly reached the cove. It was ringed with trees veiled in fog. The beach was full of ultra smooth stones, polished by Lake Superior. I picked one up and rubbed it for luck before returning it. Still not thinking about falling.

Just before the end of the trail there is a little stream that empties into the lake. I’m always a sucker for a little running water. There was a cool, gnarly tree right where the stream dumped into the lake, but as hard as I tried, I couldn’t get the composition I wanted without stray branches poking into the edge of the image. But even if all my photos had sucked, it was still an amazing experience. I left feeling at peace.

More Blurry Trees

While I was busy admiring and photographing the majestic pines by Sugarloaf Cove, I completely forgot to try some panning shots.Fortunately, I was in the presence of a talented photographer who would not let me commit such a grievous oversight.

As usual, this technique is very hit or miss and you never really know how the images turned out until they’re on a big screen.

But when it works, it’s really pretty magical.