Focus Trek #3 - If You Freeze It, They Will Come-Part 2

March 08, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

A photo pilgrimage to the Ice Caves of Northern Wisconsin.  Part 2 of 2  (back to Part 1)

“A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.”
― Carl Reiner


I thought it fitting to start part two off with the last photo from part 1.  It shows the sheer number of people who were still there in the late afternoon (which in Winter and in that latitude is shortly after lunch).  It also shows how the conditions deteriorated by this time, so any ambient light was all but gone and anything would have been obscured by the heavy snow.  I decided it was time to follow the hoards back to the parking lot.


[See the full photo portfolio here:]

Natural BridgeNatural BridgeNatural sandstone bridge in Winter at the Apostle Island National Lakeshore


When I decided to make my way back I had walked all the way past the natural bridge.  I turned around and looked back and could no longer see where the entrance to the parking lot was.  After about two miles, I took the photo above.  The entrance is around his left shoulder (his, not yours).  I pressed on, legs aching from walking over four miles of snowpack with heavy boots and cleats.








My Camera Hat



I did manage to take a picture of my "camera hat".  I found it on my phone.  I already lost one camera to water, I wasn't going to lose another.








The parking was what I expected.  Having gotten there at sunrise, I was able to park in the main lot, so it was an easy drive out.  Anyone who got there after 9am had to park down on either side of a 1/2 mile entrance road.  If they couldn't do that, they had to park on the main road. 

Day 2

Rule 1, if you go anywhere cool, get there before sunrise.  If I had known how clear it was, I would have gone out at 4am and taken some long exposure moonlight shots, but sleep won that battle and I still had to drive 9 hours back.  Getting there early has many advantages.  I was able to park right at the entrance to the beach and I had time to double back after I realized I left one of my filters behind.  When I got down to the shore, I saw there were a few photographers lined up down the ice pack shooting toward the moon, which was a few days past full.  I think the better shot would have been the opposite direction, with the moon lighting up the sandstone.  Maybe another time.  When everyone else packed it up and moved on because the moon shots were going away, I got this one.  Right after this, the shoreline was completely engulfed by the fog.  But the sun eventually started to clear it away.  You can see it in a thin layer which was suspended about four feet above the ice.  Very cool to watch it move in slowly...


Sunrise at the Ice CavesSunrise at the Ice CavesSunrise along the Apostle Island National Lakeshore


...then the sun broke over the ridge...


Morning LightMorning LightThe sun breaks the ridgeline along the Apostle Island National Lakeshore


Walking the DogsWalking the DogsHikers move toward the ice caves along a foggy morning at the Apostle Island National Lakeshore


While walking up the shoreline I talked with a couple walking their dogs.  I would pass them, then see a photo and stop.  Then they would pass me.  We continued that waltz up the shore.  To this couple: If you remembered the website and see this photo, I'll send you a print.  I didn't ask their names, but I probably should have.  I didn't have anything to write with and I'm terrible at remembering names anyway.  I need some business cards. 





Sandstone SlotSandstone Slot


One cave that was inundated with people and kids the day before was actually empty this time.  It was not so much a cave, but a slot that goes back about 100 feet and ends in a very cramped point, but the sandstone walls go straight up 100 feet on either side.


Cave WallCave WallIce formations in a slot along the Apostle Island National Lakeshore

The ice on the right looks pretty big in the photo below, but that's a trick of the 10-17mm lens at 10mm (The D7100 has a 1.5x crop factor so it's actually 15mm).  Point is, I was lined up pretty close to that wall when I took the shot, which makes everything close look bigger and everything farther away look very far.















After that, I moved only about 100 yards farther up the shore.  I planted myself at the edge of the general pathway in the vicinity of what I called the church organ.  It was one of the more impressive walls of ice.  On the right was the towering columns of icicles that looked like pipes on a pipe organ.  Then there was the big blue wall (the organ) that everyone stopped to pose in front of.  There was also another, smaller, blue wall on the left side, inset into the cliff, but he wasn't as popular (a confessional?).  It was then I made the impassioned plea home to stay just a little longer because the weather was perfect.


So this is where I made my stand for the next seven hours.  Compared to the day before, I probably could have gotten a number of better shots had I moved up the shore again.  But I had a preconception of this wall, in full sun, with blue sky behind it and bright white birch.  I could have moved on and then come back when the sun was on the wall.  But I didn't.  I waited.  And I started a time lapse.  Had I just previsualized the time-lapse, I would have changed my mind.  Watch the shadows of the trees move on the ground.  You will see what I mean.  Ignore the pretty clouds, that was a bonus.

What the eye does not see in real time is that the shadows are not moving toward the cliff AT ALL.  They are moving parallel to it.  I was hoping for just enough sun to illuminate the whole cliff side, but the sun is still too far south.  It never was going to happen.  But while I waited, I kept shooting.


This is as close as I got to my pre-visualization

Ice CavesIce CavesBeautiful day along the Apostle Island National Lakeshore in Winter



I like this one, but only because it was so hard to get him by himself in the shot.  But he unknowingly posed there for as long as it took for everyone to walk out of the frame.  When someone walked out, another would walk in from the other side.  Thanks for waiting, cross country ski guy!  If you whisper "don't move" enough I think they hear you subconsciously.  And he moved away as if knowing I got the shot I was looking for.  BTW, this has the less popular blue ice wall.  I didn't want it to feel left out.






Here is the bigger blue ice wall

Ice Wall PhotoIce Wall PhotoA photographer stops to shoot a blue ice formation along the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore


I liked this one too, it reminds me of an lone explorer in the frozen wasteland of the old days.  A kind of Baroque composition with the diagonals.  This is probably more leading lines though with the cliff outline pointing to the hiker.















My lone battery was beginning to run out (damn you, Snow Miser, for delaying my battery shipment from B&H), so I started to make my way back to the parking lot.  But, I had one final adventure to wrap up the trip.  I started to walk with an older gentleman who was pulling his wife on a toboggan.  She had bad legs and he was taking her out on her first trip to the ice caves.  I probably shouldn't have been distracting him because he kept running over rocks of ice and occasionally we would hear a groan from the passenger.  After that, I kept an eye out for him and we were able to scoot around the obstacles.

We eventually came to the spot with the eagles nest and I pointed it out to him.  He invited his wife to stand up and we all took in the view.  I talked with them for a bit about how I saw the occupant the day before.  Another guy stopped and told me about the time a small bear hibernated in an eagle's nest once.  Then I saw someone moving up on the top of the hill.

Eagles NestEagles NestA Bald Eagle's nest along the Apostle Island National Lakeshore

After that, three kids slid down the side of the hill (that's the brown streak down the middle).  The eagle's nest is up and to the right.  Hoping to get a closer vantage point to photograph the nest, I asked the kids how they got up what looked like a sheer cliff.  They led me up to the top via a stairway they had fashioned on the left side.  So, not wanting to look like an old guy wanting to look young, (and failing) I climbed up with all my camera gear.  They ran up effortlessly.  I lumbered.  And I think they came up again after that, and they helped me bring my gear up to the top.












Bald Eagle NestBald Eagle NestA Bald Eagle's nest along the Apostle Island National Lakeshore



Thanks, kid!  I got my shot!

When I was done, I followed them down to the bottom...

the fun way.


What did we learn today?

-You can't beat the show stairs kids can make on a steep hill
-Even Ansel Adams didn't pre-visualize perfectly every time.
-Yes, the ice WAS that shade of blue.  Meggen Watt Petersen, back me up.
-Subconscious mind control only works if you say please
-Sometimes if you stay put, you are moved by the people who move around you


See the full photo portfolio here:


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