North Sand Photography: Blog en-us (C) North Sand Photography (North Sand Photography) Fri, 28 Apr 2017 21:24:00 GMT Fri, 28 Apr 2017 21:24:00 GMT North Sand Photography: Blog 120 80 Winter Waterfalls…..and Death Defying Acts Late last week I set up home base on Island lake in Manitowish Waters while I made a winter waterfall photo circuit in northern Wisconsin and Michigan. My goal was to spend a couple of days shooting some off the area waterfalls. Little did I know that there would be “death defying acts” as part of the itinerary.

My first stop was Superior falls on the shoreline of Lake Superior. It’s located slightly north of Saxon Harbor and during this time of year is extremely less traveled. At 6:45am GPS told me that I had reached my location but the icy backroad that I was on told me different. I back tracked and eventually found the entrance.

Following the path to the falls I came across a ten-foot-wide section that resembled an old dirt road. The 70-foot decline that led to the base of the falls/Lake Superior shoreline was solid ice and in no way was I going to attempt that hike. Looking for a possible alternate solution I found that a heavy metal cable had been embedded in the ground and could be used as a railing.

So, I sat down, grabbed the cable with my left hand and slid all the way to the bottom. Getting back up was another issue but I’d tackle that when I returned.

I had two options at the bottom. Turn left and head to the falls or turn right and head to the icy shoreline of Lake Superior. It was a windless overcast morning so I decided to head to the lake to see if I could get a glimpse of the sunrise. Even on overcast days, sunrises on Lake Superior can be magnificent. Winter SunriseWinter SunriseLake Superior

The silence was overwhelming and once again made me appreciate the peacefulness that nature has to offer. I was fortunate to catch the sunrise and spent an hour sitting on a block of ice, taking in the beauty of a calm Lake Superior.

It was another 10-minute walk to the falls but they were completely frozen over, so I explored the base for a while and then headed back to the icy path. The only way I could figure to get back up was to kneel and use my upper body to pull myself along the cable line. It actually worked pretty well but my arms disapproved the following day.

On to Saxon falls…..

Located on the Montreal River, Saxon falls is only a few minutes from Superior falls. The falls sit in a deep gorge which I found was not easy to get to, at least not in the winter.

The journey started with a 50-foot eighteen-inch-wide footbridge over the river. The floor of the bridge had a 2-inch snow base on top of solid ice. Horrible conditions for crossing and based on lack of footprints it looked like I would be the first in a while. Thankfully the steel cables on each side of the bridge provided something to hold on to. After crossing the river, I found an additional 75 yards of bridge to hike before making it to the top of the gorge. Every step took about five seconds to ensure that I had a secure grip. I typically like an adventure but this was a bit nerve wracking.

When I reached the end, I found an 8-foot metal ladder that I had to crawl down only to find another ladder a few feet away that led back up to the continuation of the foot bridge……..of course the ladders were ice covered.

After scaling the second ladder I came to a small deck with a very long metal staircase. The staircase dropped deep into the gorge and I estimated it to be about 100 feet. I couldn’t tell if the staircase had a thin coat of ice on it so I decided to make my first common sense decision of the day and stay put. Slipping and falling on that staircase would have been disastrous.

I could see the falls from the deck so I got out my 70-200 zoom lens and photographed it for 15-20 minutes before heading back across the footbridge. Saxon FallsSaxon FallsMichigan

I spent another few minutes shooting the water flow at the Saxon dam before heading to Potato falls near Gurney.

Potato falls was easy to find, located off hwy. 169, outside of Gurney, WI.

Once there, you have the option of hiking to the upper falls or lower falls. My first choice was taking the path that stated “trail closed”. I soon realized how serious the sign was when I came to a 75 foot drop straight down where the earth had just eroded and fallen away.

 I then chose the lower falls and once again was faced with long stairways of ice covered steps. Made of wood and slightly less treacherous than the metal stairs, it was still a decent 20-minute hike to the base of the falls.

Hiking to the edge of the river, I found that it was half frozen but running freely. I hiked up stream but could not get to the base of the falls without walking across the ice, not something that I was willing to chance. I realized that I was now standing directly below the closed trail where the ground had eroded and soon began to see and hear rocks and dirt fall all around me. I am sure that the waterfall is spectacular during the fall, but on this day it was not worth hanging around for and possibly being buried in a landslide. I walked back downstream and took a 30-minute rest to enjoy the sound of running water before heading back up to the top.

Rain moved in and ended my day but after several hours of climbing I was ready to head back to home base.

 Bond Falls

Up the next day at 5:30am and off to Bond Falls. Another overcast day so I wasn’t counting on much color. I had decided early on that I wasn’t going to spend much time photographing the waterfall itself. Anyone can do that, so I focused on more of the intimate features of water flow and ice.   Bond Falls 3Bond Falls 3MIchigan UP

Bond falls is located in Michigan’s UP, just east of Paulding, MI. It is an impressive waterfall and considered to be one of the best in the area. It is well worth the trip and I am sure it gets a ton of visitors during the summer. Today I was the only one there. Due to the closed road I had to park about half a mile and hike in, which was fairly easy.

The base of the falls is surrounded by a boardwalk that provides for easy viewing. Getting to the top of the falls was a little more difficult seeing as that the stairway was completely ice covered and non-existent to the naked eye.

With the stairway out of commission, I used some trees for leverage to get me to the top. Looking upstream, the river is made up of numerous cascades and rapids. Although snow covered, the paths upstream were easy to navigate and got you up close to the edge of the running water. Bond Falls 1Bond Falls 1

I spent 5 hours there and never saw another person, in fact I never saw anyone at any of the places I visited…..just how I like it.

On my way back to the entrance I hopped over a dead tree, caught my cargo pants pocket on it and ripped a huge hole in my pants leg. I didn’t think anything of it until I got back to the truck and realized that I had lost my driver’s license, debit card and some cash.

So, it was back into the park, re-tracing my steps to the tree, hoping to find my stuff. Fortunately, it was another windless day and I soon found my cards and money sitting under the tree that had taken out my pants leg.

Back at my truck the rain started and once again ended my day.

During my three-day trip, I took about 125 pictures and wasn’t overly excited with any of them, but the adventure was amazing……and in the end, that’s what it’s all about.

Bond Falls 2Bond Falls 2Michigan UP

]]> (North Sand Photography) michigan photographs waterfalls wisconsin Mon, 23 Jan 2017 22:06:18 GMT
Photo Workshops are for Beginners too

You are beginning your venture into photography and have thought about participating in a photo workshop but feel that your skills aren't where you'd like them to be. You want to love photography but it seems so difficult at times, or you have dabbled in it enough to understand basics but still struggle with camera functionality and technique. If this is you, then photo workshops are your path to knowledge, creativity.....and a little adventure.

You can read a lot of educational material, experimenting with what you learn, and if you have the time you can apply this trial and error method until you figure things out…..but it can be frustrating when you can’t find the answers to your questions when things don’t work out the way you thought they would.

You see these great photographs and wish that you could document something like that, but every time you try, it just doesn’t look the same.

Let’s face it, how many times have you put your camera down in frustration and told yourself that it’s just too difficult to get beyond the “Automatic” process of taking photographs.

A great learning tool to offset this sometimes frustrating and dis-heartening process is to participate in a photo workshop.

There’s a big creative world out there. Why not learn from someone who has already worked through the educational and creative challenges that you are currently experiencing.

No matter where your experience level is, you will always benefit from attending and participating in a photo workshop.

I have had countless conversations with people who would love to take part in a workshop but don’t think that their photo skills are good enough. This is where my confusion sets in…..what you have just told me is the single most important reason for attending a workshop.

I have participated in workshops as a student and have found them to be invaluable. I not only learned how to navigate my camera settings but also built upon the experience of “seeing” things in different ways.

What I have learned over the years, the trials and tribulations of camera navigation and understanding the impact of creative vision has taken my evolution from student to teacher.

So, put aside your fear of “not being good enough” to attend a photo workshop and consider these points:


  • There will be people just like you who desire to become better photographers. They have the same fears and you’ll find that you have many things in common with them in regards to where you think you are in your journey into photography. You will meet great people and most likely develop some long term relationships.
  • One on one instruction. We all have a different learning curve. Yours will be addressed by one of the instructors in a way that makes you feel comfortable and more confident.
  • The workshop makes photography the priority. You may feel that this is the first time that you have been able to seriously focus on it. Think of it as a vacation that lets you concentrate on improving something that you really love to do.
  • Inspiration. You may have lost that passion but I guarantee that you will find it again and walk away more inspired than ever before. Education is an amazing thing, the more you understand, the more you’ll want to learn.
  • Through workshops you will find that you are beginning to develop your own style or build on one that is just waiting to become a creative force.
  • You can’t learn without some constructive critique. You’ll learn how evaluate and process your photographs through sessions that are geared around respectful feedback. 
  •  Workshops are not “boot camp”. Our goal is to teach you and to help you grow as a photographer, but we’ll do it in a way that is enjoyable and satisfying.
  • You’ll get to practice what you learn. You can watch and learn all you want but actually doing is when all of the learned functionality and techniques come together.
  • You have a personal guide to some amazing locations that will not only inspire you but also teach you how to plan a shoot around lighting and conditions.
  • You’ll have access to the instructors long after the workshop is over to answer questions and to aid into your further development.

Workshops can be incredibly beneficial to your growth as a photographer. You’ll learn alongside people just like you, develop some great relationships, experience amazing photo opportunities and walk away with an increased knowledge of camera functionality and technique. You’ll gain insight into the creative process and put yourself into a position to move forward with confidence.

I hope that this has put some of your fears to rest and that it has opened yourself up to the possibility of participating in a photography workshop.   

Our 2017 Door County photo workshop is scheduled for Fall.

Mike Murray and Cameron Gillie will once again lead this Wisconsin photo workshop. You can find more details at:

North Sand Photography and The Pinhole Thing



]]> (North Sand Photography) Beginner Door County photo wisconsin workshops Tue, 10 Jan 2017 15:22:59 GMT
Door County, Abandoned Farms and Neutral Density Filters Days PastDays PastDoor County, Wisconsin

During a workshop scouting trip to Door County my workshop partner Cameron Gillie and I came across and old farm that absolutely needed to be photographed. We took a location setting and through some great investigative work by Cameron we were able to track down the owner and gain access to the property for one of our workshop morning shoots.

It was a mild day with light winds, perfect for spending the morning shooting several buildings and their contents, old tractors, windmills and detailed metal works such as door knobs, hinges and light fixtures. It was like stepping 70 years into the past.

Two of the students had set up and were taking pictures of the old home and windmill when i approached them and brought up the idea of using a neutral density filter to show movement in the windmill. They had heard of ND filters but neither had used one, so i set up next to them to demonstrate the impact of what the filter can do.

ND filters are extremely dark and are used to show motion during times when lighting forces a quicker shutter speed to produce a correctly exposed photo. They are great for shooting water, waterfalls, clouds, etc......anything that is moving. It adds a nice effect that produces photos with impact. Just make sure you compose and focus before you put it on. Like i said, the filters are very dark.

You can find ND filters where the number of stops are fixed or variables where one filter allows you to access multiple shades of darkness. Variables are typically more expensive.

On that morning, lighting conditions had us shooting with an exposure time of 1/125 of a second and the pictures that the students produced were freezing the motion of the windmill.

I added an 8 stop Hoya ND filter to my lens and shot the above picture. The filter slowed down my exposure to 2 seconds and allowed me to present the illusion of a fast moving windmill.

In post processing i added an analog filter from NIK software to give the picture a "weathered" feel.

Workshops are a great environment for picking up small but effective educational pieces like this. I hope that you'll consider attending one of our Door County workshops and/or some of the others that we are planning for the future.

Questions about workshops?? Please feel free to contact me or Cameron






]]> (North Sand Photography) Door County Filters Workshops Sun, 01 Jan 2017 16:48:39 GMT
Sleeklens lightroom workflow review Sleeklens Lightroom Workflow Review                                                                         

Seeing as that I am primarily a landscape photographer I was recently asked by the folks at Sleeklens to provide a review of their “Through the Woods” presets and brushes lightroom plugin.

Sleeklens is a company located in Denmark that offers a wide variety of post processing options for Lightroom and Photoshop.

The “Through the Woods” workflow is designed to enhance, tone and sharpen your landscape photos while retaining a natural look.

There are fifty landscape presets and thirty landscape brushes that become part of the lightroom workflow after an incredibly easy download process.

The presets and brushes are applied in exactly the same way as you would apply them in lightroom. They can be found in the lightroom preset module and in the adjustment brush module.

The fifty presets fall into several categories, All in one, Exposure, Base, Color correction, Tone/tint, Polish and Vignette.

While the All in one preset impacts the entire photo, the others will effect a specific part.

The Adjustment brushes are applied by selecting the desired effect and painting over the area of the photograph that you want to impact.


My Initial thoughts

  I am not a big preset guy, I like to work my photos from top to bottom and make my adjustments at each part of the lightroom workflow, so I was a bit leery with allowing global adjustments from a preset……but I am always open to trying something new so I agreed to give them a shot for providing a review in return.

I selected two images that were blah, had some toning / exposure issues and needed some pop. Oh, one more thing about the presets, they can be stacked on top of one another so you can use multiple presets to get to the end result that you are looking for.

Also, when you apply a preset it is basically moving all of the lightroom sliders in the basic panel workflow module so if you don’t like how it looks or want to make some subtle adjustments you still have the ability to do so. You always have complete control.

The workflow is easy. Hold the cursor over each preset to get an idea of how it will impact the photo. This is a good starting point and can be approached by determining what the photo needs to improve it or give it the artistic vision that you are looking for.

Bring in the brushes to fine tune regional areas of the photo, make some additional adjustments using the lightroom options….and you’re done.

You can make your adjustments with RAW or JPEG images. Stick with RAW as they provide more manipulative options.


So, here goes….

My first photo of Half Dome in California’s eastern sierra’s was taken at dusk and has an unattractive blue tone to it. It certainly was not what my eye was seeing.

I started by applying the “Shine into the Sunset” preset, made some minor adjustments to the sliders and then finished up by applying the “Warmer” brush and the “Add Golden Sun “brush to the sky. It took all of 90 seconds and produced a more appealing and realistic version of what I was seeing.

My second photo of Mono Lake was dull and didn’t provide the pop that I had envisioned. I started by stacking three presets. I used “Warmer Shadows”, “Deep Blue Skies” and “Medium Blk Vignette” in collaboration with one another to create my initial vision. I then used the “Cloudy Sky Definition” brush on the sky, made a minor noise reduction adjustment and was finished…..once again in under 2 minutes.


My take away….

   Even though I prefer total control over the creative process, I found that the Sleeklens presets and brushes were a true asset to my workflow. Depending on my vision, some of the presets were spot on or at worst required minor adjustments. They provided me with a great starting point and saved me the many hours that it would have taken me to create them on my own.

The additional adjustment brushes also are value added from a time and vision perspective.

There are times when I have a specific end result in mind and prefer to start from scratch, but opening up to the sleeklens presets has opened my eyes to places that I may have never gone with my usual workflow process. They provide a creative advantage that even the best photographer will benefit from.

Another idea is to take their presets, make minor adjustments and create your own set of customized presets. The great thing is that they have done all of the hard work for you.

The “Through the Woods” lightroom plugin is something that I will definitely use going forward. I can see it becoming an important part of my normal workflow. It allows you to explore creative vision while saving time…..something that I never seem to have enough of.

For more information on Sleeklens products go to:

]]> (North Sand Photography) Sun, 18 Dec 2016 22:18:34 GMT
All is good in the world It was the first snow of the season this morning so i decided to head out and see what i could capture. Hadn't been to Parfreys Glen for a while so i decided to start there. With light snow falling i began my hike, soon realizing that the only sounds were my footsteps and the calming sound of water moving through the rocks. Looking to my right i noticed two deer silently watching me as i made my way through the gorge.....and then after a while I realized that all of the stuff that we all seem to stress over on a daily basis was no longer in my head.

I was in the moment, no worries, no stress, no was me and nature and at that time, all was good in the world. It's a pretty amazing feeling, hard to put into words but definitely euphoric.

Some of you will know exactly what i am talking about. For those who don't I highly encourage you to allow yourself to connect with the outside world...alone. Find a quiet place where you can walk, no talking, no cell phones, just the sounds of the natural world. Let yourself take in all that surrounds you and soon you will be one with the environment.

I know it sounds hokey but i am telling you that it is one of the most life balancing feelings that you'll ever have. You will see things that you've never looked at before. You will hear sounds that are soothing and you will know that life is truly amazing.

Being a photographer it is important for me to connect with my photo opportunities on an emotional level. I am not the type to just click away at whatever is out there. The scene or subject needs to draw me in and make a personal impact.

Photography is subjective. You may love a picture or hate it...or have no feeling about it at all, but always remember that the photographer was somehow drawn to shooting it. In some way they connected with it.

I love shooting color but this morning it was a black and white world. I've always felt that color was about emotion and that black and white was about drama and mystery. You see differently in black and white as shapes and shadows take over your viewpoint....but you wouldn't know that if you didn't take the time to actually look around and see things without the cloudiness of everyday life.

You don't need to be a photographer to connect with the natural world. Allow yourself the quiet time to see, feel and listen and soon you will know, even for a short time, that all is good in the world.


Winter WonderlandWinter Wonderland


]]> (North Sand Photography) Sun, 04 Dec 2016 17:49:40 GMT
California's Eastern Sierra Snow Caps above the Alabama HillsSnow Caps above the Alabama HillsLone Pine, California Fire in the SkyFire in the SkyOlmstead Point
Yosemite National Park
         A year ago I signed up for a photo workshop in the eastern sierra of California with photographer Gary Hart. I knew that I would have the opportunity to see and photograph amazing landscapes but I wasn't sure how much I would learn because I already considered myself a competent photographer. By the end of the workshop Gary had taught me how to see beyond what I already thought was a good eye for composition and how to be patient while seriously work a scene. Those two lessons went beyond my expectations and going forward will make me a much better photographer. It's more than just having a good eye. It's actually taking the time to really analyze every part of your composition and having the patience to find the unlimited opportunities in every shot.

The week started in the Alabama hills just outside of Lone Pine, CA. This area is full of rocky outcrops and looks like the perfect landscape for a western fact, if you research the area online you will find that a number of movies were filmed there. The hills sit at the base of Mount Whitney and provide endless photo opportunities. We climbed 10,000 feet to a summit area for climbers attempting to scale Mount Whitney where we shot waterfalls in the rain. unfortunately, conditions were not favorable for good shooting. The rain stopped as we descended down the mountain range which enabled us to get some great shots of a rain cloud making its way across the desert.

On Tuesday we began our day back in the Alabama hills for sunrise shooting. I focused my efforts on panoramic shots of the mountain range and managed to get some real winners.

Later that morning we packed up and headed for Bishop, CA to spend the evening shooting night skies at 10,000 feet in the bristle cone pine forest. Bristle cone pines are some of the oldest trees on earth with some dating back 5,000 years. The night was windy and a bit cold, getting down into the 30's. The skies were overcast but cleared as the night sky opened up above us allowing for some great photo opportunities.

On Wednesday morning we were up early to shoot fall colors at North Lake, just outside of Bishop. It's a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains and flanked by golden aspens. After spending a few hours shooting the lake and surrounding streams we packed up and headed for Lee Vining, CA. Lee Vining overlooks Mono Lake, an iconic landscape that features large Tufa towers. Tufa is a variety of limestone that grows out of the lake. It is hard and extremely sharp and unlike anything I have seen before.

We arrived before sunset and set up hoping for color enhanced skies as day moved into night. It didn't happen, so we went back the next day for sunrise and the light show was nothing less than spectacular.

On Thursday evening we traveled into Yosemite to Olmsted point to shoot Half Dome at sunset. It was a small hike to a huge slab of granite that overlooked the valley and provided a great view of Half Dome. As the sun set, the skies lit up like fire, mixing pinks with intense reds and blues. I got some great shots. I have seen some fantastic sunsets in Wisconsin but have never seen the deep red color that I witnessed that night.

On Friday it was off to Lundy Canyon for more fall color shooting. I spent the morning shooting close ups of the aspens.

Later that day, on my way back to Reno, I stopped at the Bodie historical site. Bodie is a mining town that thrived in the late 1800's and had a population as high as 8,000. The town has been preserved and is in very good condition. I suggest you research it online because there is a lot of great information about it. It's incredibly interesting.

Saturday was a full day of travel, taking three planes to get back home.....exhausted but extremely lucky to have experienced the prior five days. I had a wonderful time, met some amazing people and got to watch and learn from a truly great photographer.

Although I took some 500-600 pictures I can't wait to get back out and re-discover some of my favorite Wisconsin shooting spots.

Think I’ll head out on Sunday.... 

]]> (North Sand Photography) Tue, 20 Oct 2015 00:23:03 GMT
Night Skies, Dark Woods and Wildlife This last weekend the northern Wisconsin skies were clear and made for perfect conditions to photograph the milky way. For effective night sky shots you need to be in extremely dark surroundings which brings up a couple of're out there in the woods, all alone, with wildlife and in my case, a wild imagination.

The first night out i left the cabin about 11pm to find a dark spot with some dead trees....speaking of dead trees, I'll get to that later. I wanted to use the trees for a good foreground silhouette against the night sky. I found a spot, set up my tripod and because i was using a 14mm lens, programmed my camera for a 25 second exposure with an aperture of 2.8 and ISO of 5000. At 14mm any exposure over 35 seconds will allow the stars to trail and take away that pinpoint effect. The calculation for determining how long of an exposure you can allow is based on your lens. Divide 500 by your lens focal length to get the number of seconds you can open your shutter before stars begin to trail. 500/14=35. 

I shot about ten pictures over a thirty minute period. While shooting my last picture i heard bushes rustling nearby which caused some concern but not enough to stop the shutter. I flipped on my flashlight immediately after the exposure ended to find three red foxes staring at me from about 5 feet away. That's how dark it was. I'm thankful that it wasn't a bear. I packed up and took the twenty minute walk back to the cabin.

The next night i decided to shoot star trails. This would require about ninety minutes of shooting time and a darker area seeing as that the exposures would be longer. Ninety minutes in pitch dark woods is a little unnerving. It's true that your hearing senses get better when you can't see. I heard everything from an acorn dropping to coyotes howling and owls hooting. An owl's hoot is pretty soothing but an owl's screech is downright terrifying. My defense method was to pull my keys out and jingle them every time i heard something close. Not sure how effective that is but it's all i had other than whistling and stomping my foot which probably looked pretty stupid.

I found another good spot near a pine forest that i like to shoot in. Now here is the dead tree story. In this pine forest there are only tall pine trees......with the exception of two dead oak trees that stick out like a sore thumb. I saw these trees for the first time two years ago and they were so out of place that i needed to do some exploring. When i got to the trees there was about an 8x10 foot spot roughly cordoned off by some barbed wire. The barbed wire surrounded these two dead trees and embedded in one of the was a large blade. It is a very creepy spot.

So here is what i found out about this small area. The story goes that many years ago during the 40's or 50's a women was murdered in this spot and it is either a grave or a marker of where the crime was committed. I have heard stories about people seeing her ghost walk through the pines, so why did i pick this spot to shoot night skies? I don't know, I must be crazy. I have seen too many movies that involve dark woods, unmarked graves and ghostly figures to think that this was a good idea.

So, putting my uneasy feelings aside, i set up my gear and shot a series of forty-five two minute exposures that i would eventually stack together to create a photo with star trails as a background to the pine trees.

Everything went as planned except for the intermittent clouds that rolled overhead. Those clouds put some pretty hefty gaps in my star trails and my ninety minutes of shooting resulted in a less than satisfying picture. Another great learning experience.......oh, and no ghosts.

]]> (North Sand Photography) Mon, 14 Sep 2015 23:56:34 GMT
Hiking up the Black River Big Manitou FallsBig Manitou FallsPattison state park
Superior, Wisconsin

Hiking up the Black River

After spending Wednesday night shooting at Quarry Point on Lake Superior’s south shore I headed west to Pattison State Park to make another attempt at hiking to the base of Big Manitou Falls. I pulled in to the park about 6:30am, double checked my camera gear, put on my knee high rubber boots, grabbed my bear spray and headed down the half mile path to the edge of the Black River.

I have made two previous attempts at this and have given up both times. I tried last fall but did not have the proper footwear for water so I tried hiking to the base of the falls through the dense forest. The difficulty of doing that was too much and after 45 minutes I gave up. Going off path is never easy and besides, it appeared to me that even if I made it to the falls I would still have to find a way down the cliff walls.

My second attempt was in early spring. I had my rubber boots on but the snow melt had raised the water level and the river was about 40-50 feet wide and moving fast. The speed and strength of the rapid water would have easily taken me down….and the water was cold! I hiked along the edge as far as I could but needed to cross when the rock wall became too sheer for me to continue. That’s where the problems began.

The river bed is comprised of rock, anywhere from a couple of inches to several feet in size. It is impossible to guess the depth of your next step. It can also be very slippery. So, with those challenges, no walking stick to check depths and the rapid water, I turned back and headed back to the top.

My most recent attempt found me fully prepared to take a decent shot at completing the task. I knew that the water level would be lower than earlier in the year and I now had a walking stick to check depths and provide additional balance as I moved through the water.

I was encouraged as I reached the bottom of the gorge, finding that the river was only about 25 feet wide in some spots and as little as 10 feet in others. The depth was mostly ankle deep but I soon found my boots filling with water as I hit the knee high areas. Walks over to the edge for boot water removal were frequent but not too bad. The falls are only about a quarter mile away from my river starting point but it feels a lot longer due to the length of time it takes to maneuver through the rocky river bed.

I was able to make it up the river without to many obstacles but eventually I ran into a wall of boulders that I probably could have climbed over had I been able to get to them. Unfortunately the only path was scaling a sheer rock wall. It didn’t help that the water below was now 5-6 feet deep.

I did make one attempt but slipped on the rock wall and came very close to going in. In the past I have put myself in some dangerous situations but this time my common sense got the better of me and I threw in the towel.

So, I conceded my journey to get to the base. Was I frustrated?  Yeah, a little, but I had to laugh a bit knowing that this is how it usually goes when you go up against Mother Nature. Just because she has “Mother” in her name does not mean she is a kindly old woman that easily forgives. No, she will take you down if you don’t respect her. She is relentless in her pursuit to protect this amazing planet that we live on.

I also thought about the Lewis & Clark expedition. Their challenges were a thousand times harder than my small feat of going upriver on foot. It is truly amazing what they accomplished, in fact it’s impossible to comprehend. My trip took five hours, small in stature but it allowed my spirit to soak in the peacefulness, beauty and mystery of Wisconsin’s north woods.  In the end, that’s good enough for me.

]]> (North Sand Photography) Sun, 09 Aug 2015 19:21:45 GMT
Cold Morning-Making mistakes         I got up at 4:30 yesterday morning with the intent to go out and shoot. I didn’t really have a plan so I just got in the car and took off. Seeing that the sky was finally clear of clouds I thought I would take some night sky shots but I needed some dark skies. All I could think of was Devils lake so that’s where I ended up.

I parked on the south shore and pointed my camera (with 14mm lens) north towards Baraboo (mistake one), then I tried to find the horizon by “eyeing” up the angle of the camera instead of using the viewfinder (mistake two). Sometimes you do things that make no sense. I can’t tell you how many times (after shooting) I spend the rest of a day thinking about how I could have done things differently.

Anyway, after shooting some night sky pics I decided to climb the west bluff. There was no wind and although it was very cold, I figured I would be ok spending a few hours on top of the bluff (mistake three).

The hike up was dark and very quiet but I generated enough heat to keep me warm….for a while. I found a place to set up and waited for the light that would wash over the valley at sunrise.....but it never did. I forgot to bring my graduated ND filters and bracketing was just not working so my options were limited and eventually I admitted defeat..

After about an hour and a half I noticed that my black fleece jacket had turned white. My first thought was that I wiped it on the dusty truck earlier in the morning. I soon realized that it was a layer of frost that had built up from the heat that I had generated on the hike up. Now I am getting cold, trying to shoot in disappointing light and getting frustrated with the lack of feeling in my fingers and left big toe. 

My newly acquired frost jacket has now turned me into a freezer…..but I keep waiting to see if the lighting changes. To pass the time i walked around the area and made up words to a song from the 70's group "The Spinners" that was making a non-stop loop through my head. You know how a voice can carry on a quiet morning....if anyone was in the area then they probably heard some interesting stuff. The sun finally moves above the clouds and I got a couple of shots of the glimmering water below. After two and a half hours on top of the bluff I decide to hike back down.

Due to the disappointing morning I thought i'd try and find some “intimate landscape” shots (leaves, frost on moss, mushrooms on dead trees, etc.) on my way down. That’s all great but it’s still cold and the heat packs in my gloves are losing their warmth. I found a few interesting subjects but rushed through them. I then spent the last few minutes of my morning standing in a shallow stream shooting some interesting ice shapes.

At the end of the morning I had taken 38 pictures……I deleted all but two. That’s how it goes sometimes but  I did get in a good hike and the peacefulness of being on that quiet bluff all by myself was something you just can’t buy. I am thankful for that.

Oh yeah, my mistakes….

One- Too much light from the city washed some of my night sky, should have faced south

Two- A horrible and unattractive horizon line. Still can’t figure out why I didn’t use the live view

Three- Underestimated the cold air and the impact on my senses.....Spinners songs??? really??

There’s always next time…hopefully the Spinners have moved on and have been replaced by ahhhh.....Pink Floyd (Dark Side of the Moon)....Yeah....much better.

]]> (North Sand Photography) Mon, 29 Dec 2014 16:36:25 GMT
Take a hike....It's good for you! Take a Hike……..It’s good for you!

      My type of nature photography requires a lot of hiking, uphill, downhill, through water, chest high grass, swamps, mud…. you name it, I’ve probably hiked through it. I once walked into a dense growth of some very sharp bushes that shredded my raincoat and pants beyond recognition and left me with cuts and scratches over my entire body. I was looking to shoot a grove of dead trees and needed to walk through the bushes to get there. Didn’t get any good shots…but what an experience!

And then a year ago there was the 9 mile hike that Lexi (my dog) and I took on through the northern Wisconsin woods. We walked a dirt road for a couple of miles and then took a path through the woods. I figured that it would bring us back close to our starting point. Boy was I wrong. It took us to no point and we had to stop, turn around and retrace our steps…….but once again, what an experience!

Now that the weather has finally turned, it’s a great time to get out and hike. Hiking is a great form of exercise and with all of the hiking trails available it can always be a new experience…….and it’s extremely beneficial to your health.

Here’s why:

Improved cardio-respiratory fitness

Regular physical activity substantially reduces the risk of dying of coronary heart disease by strengthening the heart and lowering the risk of high cholesterol and triglycerides.

Improved muscular fitness

     When practiced over a long period, an aerobic exercise like hiking assists in boosting your stamina and encourages treatment of natural fatigue. In addition, hiking also builds strength and flexibility. Hiking uphill firms the calves and downhill hikes strengthen the quadriceps.

Lower risk of high blood pressure

      Nearly one third of American adults have high blood pressure. Hypertension is often referred to as the silent killer since symptoms are often undetectable and it can lead to heart attack, stroke, and other serious problems.

Physical activity such as hiking lowers blood pressure 4-10 points and regaining a normal body weight can lower it 5-20 points.

Increased bone density or a slower loss of density

      Hiking assists in increasing bone strength and density. Regular hiking slows down the rate at which calcium is lost in the body, therefore strengthening bones and reducing their likelihood of breaking. Hiking prevents the onset of various bone diseases such as arthritis and osteoporosis.

Reduced depression and better quality sleep

      The current lifestyle that many people live is very hectic and stress causing. Hiking offers a great method of relaxing and spending some time in the wild. Hiking in natural and beautiful surroundings helps to calm both the mind and body. Endorphins released by your body during a walking workout can lift your spirits and keep them there throughout the day or night – keeping your brain as healthy as your body.

Lower risk of early death

       If you are active for 7 hours a week, your risk of dying early is 40% lower than someone active for less than 30 minutes a week.

Weight control; hiking burns up 400 calories an hour

      Hiking is a great method of losing those excess pounds. Actually, hiking burns about 400 calories in only one hour and it has the potential of burning even more calories when you hike in challenging areas like hills. Combining hiking with a good diet enables people to shed weight quickly.


     There are times when I am extremely sore after doing an extensive hike/climb…..but it’s a good pain, the kind of pain that makes you feel like you accomplished something, the kind of pain that exemplifies that inner drive to push yourself beyond what you might consider to be your limit.

I am not suggesting that you go out and kill yourself, only that you take the time to get outside and enjoy nature. I promise you that it will not only be visually entertaining but also great for your body and soul.

…..and make sure you take a camera. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll see

]]> (North Sand Photography) Sun, 11 May 2014 21:14:40 GMT
Doing My Best to Improve Your Health………and Make You a Nicer Person : ) Copper rapidsCopper rapidsCopper Falls
Mellen, Wisconsin
     I like to shoot alone. It’s not that I am anti-social, it’s just that being out in the middle of nowhere, alone, allows me to see, listen and visualize the world in a way that cleanses my soul from all of the day to day distractions that we all experience. It calms me and I truly believe that it has had a positive impact on my overall health and well-being.

I recently did some research on the effects of viewing nature and came across a couple of interesting articles.

“If it weren’t for Central Park, all us New Yorkers would kill each other,” says Ruta Fox, a 50-something jewelry entrepreneur from Manhattan. “It’s the saving grace of this city.” This is a current quote from an article by Diane Mapes, an MSNBC contributor, on how nature makes you nicer.

In a set of recent experiments, researchers at the University of Rochester in New York monitored the effects of natural versus artificial environments — and found that nature actually makes us nicer.

“Previous studies have shown the health benefits of nature range from more rapid healing to stress reduction to improved mental performance and vitality.”

For as long as man has pondered his role in the natural world, it has been assumed that having a connection with nature resulted in a happier, healthier, more stress-free life. Only in the last few decades has scientific research proven this assumption to be true. More recently, these findings have been used to create conditions where we can more easily interact with nature in ways that support health and happiness.

A considerable body of evidence proves that if you can't be in nature, you can still benefit greatly from just viewing nature.  Activities as simple as viewing a photograph, painting or any kind of artwork that represents nature can have a positive effect on your well- being.


That being said, I will continue my never ending quest to improve your health……..and possibly make you a nicer person : )

]]> (North Sand Photography) Tue, 29 Apr 2014 00:36:57 GMT
Life's passions are good for your soul     I spent a good part of last Friday standing in an ice cold creek.....why?? Because i wanted to shoot some pictures that gave the viewer a sense of what it looks like when you are standing in the middle of a creek...crystal clear flowing water, rocks above and below the surface, pine trees on the gorge above me...a somewhat different perspective from what the average person might see.

It was a bright sunny day and with the sun straight overhead was not the greatest shooting conditions. Middle of the day sun makes everything look flat and the shadows are less than interesting, but I was outside enjoying nature and that's all that really mattered.

I went to the creek with the intention of shooting some long exposure pictures. The sun being as it was forced me to use an 8 stop neutral density filter to allow for a longer shutter speed that I had hoped would result in some interesting water motion.

With my knee high rubber boots on i carefully walked amongst the rocks and fallen trees hoping that a slippery spot would not take me down. Boots won as i managed to stay above water.

So, after looking for the best spots, maneuvering through the water, setting up and shooting for a couple of hours i managed to come away with nothing that interested me. Working with the long exposures taught me a few things about shooting in the middle of the day but other than that i can honestly say that none of my pictures were a success.

When i was finished i moved upstream to a small water fall and set up so that my camera was inches from the water flow. Now it was time to shoot some high speed exposures so that i could freeze the water movement. Twenty five shots later i walked out of there with only one (in my eyes) winner........

So, if you are thinking that i was disappointed in my outing you couldn't be further from the truth. Photography is my passion and i am almost always "in my zone" when i am out shooting. Even those times (and there are plenty of them) when things just don't gel, i can still walk away energized about learning something or experiencing the peacefulness of what nature has to offer. It's hard to describe the feeling but i am sure it's no different than how all of you feel about the things in your life that give you that extra charge that just seems to make life a little better.

You could be a chef, a painter, a marathon runner, a musician, a volunteer or a mom or a dad, it doesn't matter. Having a passion for something in your life is a game changer for your soul. It can lighten it or pick it up when things aren't so great. Having a passion can make all the difference.

Friday night i sat in the driveway and took pictures of gravel. I looked at the way the light effected the shadows of the many different geometric shapes. Am i nuts???? no, not at all, I am passionate.....

See ya soon

]]> (North Sand Photography) Sun, 20 Apr 2014 22:19:22 GMT
Long cold winter    What a long, cold winter it's been! I typically like to shoot during the winter months but the cold temps kept me at bay. After deciding that outdoor shooting was going to be minimal at best, i decided to educate myself and practice on using portrait lighting. I set up some studio lights in a spare bedroom and went to work. Using my dog Lexi (who would never sit still) and myself as models was not optimal but sometimes you just need to use what's available. I learned a lot durng the last few months and would actually consider doing some portrait work. I think that it will also make a difference in the field during times where i want to add some fill flash to my photos. I love working the outdoor light. How you play the light angles and shadows can take a photo from "ok" to "spectacular".  It also takes some time when you are waiting for the right need to be willing to sit and wait but when you are outdoors it never seems to be so gotta love nature!

Late last summer i began a deep dive into night sky photography. I'll continue that this year and maybe try doing some lengthy time lapse videos. Like i have always said, "it's a never ending education".

One thing i did learn this winter is that i am not capable of taking a decent self portrait. The lighting was fine but the model never seemed to gel with the camera. Maybe that is why i stay behind it.....

See ya soon


]]> (North Sand Photography) Thu, 27 Mar 2014 13:33:14 GMT
Big Sur    Just returned from a week in Big Sur, California and can honestly say that it may be one of the most beautiful places in the world. The combination of mountains, rocky coastlines and raging seas are hard to beat. It is a nature photographer's dream that will require many trips to explore all that there is to offer. Point Lobos, located south of Carmel should be a definite destination for anyone who wants to experience the california coastline experience. Rocky shores, cypress trees, seals, pelicans and big time waves are just a few of the things you'll experience at Point Lobos. Andrew Molera state park and Julia Pfieffer state park are two other "go to" destinations. Both state parks are located about 30 miles south of Carmel.

The old coast road is also something you'll want to tackle (if you have the guts). It is a 10 mile, one and a half lane dirt road that winds through the mountains between the Bixby bridge and the entrance to Andrew Molera state park. You'll need to take your time on this one and i will warn you that it can be quite unnerving at times but the drive through the dark redwood forest and amazing panoramic views are well worth it. Good Luck!!

Of course, i spent most of my shooting time during sunrise and sunset. The lighting on the rocky shore cliffs is nothing less than spectacular. Throw in the blue aqua water and the colorful vegatation and you have everything you need to produce amazing photos.

I used my 14mm lens on a number of shoots to capture the vastness of the area, allowing the viewer to take in as much as i could see. I also used my ND filter quite a bit to slow down the exposure and capture that soft misty water effect.

I will post a gallery filled with shots from my trip as soon as i get them processed. I think you'll really enjoy them.

So, if you are heading out to the Monterey area make sure you jump on highway one and head south. You will not be disappointed. I guarantee it...


Fall is here in Wisconsin, time to get out a shoot some color.......

See ya soon





]]> (North Sand Photography) Thu, 03 Oct 2013 20:41:11 GMT
Night Sky Photography   

   I have been inspired as of late by all of the great night sky time lapse videos that I have watched on the net. Space is amazing in itself so being able to document it through photography has been an exciting venture. I have done my research and a lot of trial and error shots but think that I finally have a handle on understanding how the exposure time impacts each night sky photo.

   Standing in a dark field at one in the morning is a little unnerving but I have found that you eventually get used to it, although I have heard noises that are a bit frightening at times....  

    Dark skies (no light infiltration, although i have played a little bit with light painting) and a tripod are a must for successful night sky shots. I have done anywhere from twenty four seconds to twenty five minute exposures so hand holding the camera is completely out of the question. My lens of choice is a 14mm which allows me to shoot the vastness of the sky and I use an Intervalometer that allows me to set shutter speeds longer than the camera's limit of 30 seconds.

    I also use a headlamp with a red light to see where I am walking and when I need light for controlling camera settings. Bear repellant and a hunting knife are also part of my standard kit because you never know....

    I have just barely scratched the surface with this new interest but have turned out a few very nice shots. I have said it before and I’ll say it again, photography is a never ending education. There is always something new to learn and to experiment with.

    I know that I will eventually find myself creating videos from time lapse stills but for right now I will concentrate on the basics and see what kind of amazing photos I can produce.



]]> (North Sand Photography) Thu, 15 Aug 2013 13:28:37 GMT
Trying something new     

Early on I was so driven to do landscape and wildlife work that I told myself that I would never be interested in macro or flash photography. I think that making a statement like that was driven out of fear of not being able to do it correctly.........but then I thought about the early days of learning exposure, composition and the artistry of doing your own thing. I was afraid of not doing that right either, but I had this undying desire to learn. The more comfortable I got, the more experimental I became and that's when you become a true artist. I no longer look at something for only what it is but also for what it can be.

The same goes for your photographic knowledge. This year I started to use my macro lens a little more and then eventually figured out how to alter the shots in interesting and imaginative ways. I then started playing with my flash from a fill perspective but since then have purchased a 30 foot cord to allow me to try many different lighting angles. My fear of getting it right disappeared as I began to produce photos that looked the way I wanted them to look. Right or wrong didn't matter anymore and the art of the experimental took off. I have spent entire weekends shooting nothing but macro and flash altered landscapes or wildlife to be found......and it's ok!! 

I know who I am as a photographer and I think I know what people expect out of my work.....but I don't ever want to feel trapped into only producing certain types of pictures. I may live in the landscape world but will always venture into whatever I find interesting.

You may look at my new work and be slightly disappointed that it's not a grand landscape.......but I know that you will always find it interesting and hopefully emotionally moving. At a recent show, a visitor to my booth told me that looking at my photographs gave them "Goosebumps". To me, that is the ultimate compliment.

Another visitor viewing this photo asked why I am only showing half the flower. They thought that it was a very interesting picture..................I rest my case.

I get asked all of the time if I do portraits or weddings. I am an outdoors guy. I like the freedom of doing my own thing.....besides, the thought of doing portraits and weddings terrifies me..........................hmmm, could that be my next frontier??? For me, learning macro and flash was like climbing to the top of Devil's Lake........Doing weddings......makes me think about Mt. Everest........the desire to learn says yes. The verbal abuse from an upset relative says........well, maybe : )


]]> (North Sand Photography) Fri, 07 Jun 2013 16:12:49 GMT
Devil's Lake March 2013 Woke to the alarm at 4:15am on Saturday to head north to Devil's lake state park near Baraboo, Wisconsin. I grabbed a quick shower to wake up, threw my camera equipment and hiking gear into the car and took off. I thought that the weather report from the night before stated partly sunny skies and lite winds. They got partly sunny right.....

I pulled into the park about 5:30, put on my backpack and headlamp and headed up the west bluff trail. Three steps up the trail and i knew that i was in for a tough ascent. The trail conditions were equivalent to a frozen water slide so i had to walk on the side of the trail and grab trees for balance and stability. After about 60 feet, the water bottle that i was carrying in the lower pocket of my camo pants popped out and slid 40 feet down the trail. I knew i'd regret it if i didn't retrieve it so it was back down the trail for a little future hydration. Halfway up the bluff i realized that my pants were soaking wet. I checked my water bottle and found that the tumble down the trail had resulted in a crack in the plastic. I drank the remaining much for future hydration.

I reached the top about 25 minutes before sunrise and scouted out a couple of spots that i have shot from before. I set up my equipment and waited for the light. The winds were anything but lite but did not seem to bother me much. Sitting on the edge of the bluffs as the sun rises is an incredible feeling. It provides for a strong sense of isolation that ups your senses of everything going on around you. I guess the best way to describe it is like having total freedom from all of life's worries and the experience of truly appreciating life.

As i proceeded to shoot from several different areas and all kinds of angles i noticed a Turkey Vulture flying below me, then 3, then 10, then 25, then at least 60. Eventually their wings caught the updraft of the wind and they were soaring above me. It made me think of the cartoons i watched as a kid that depicted someone walking through the desert while a couple of talking vultures pursued them.  The thought made me laugh a bit as i moved back to my camera.

After spending an hour and a half on the bluffs i headed down the southwest trail. The trail conditions were just as bad but going down at least gave me the option sliding on my backside when necessary. The winds at  the bottom of the bluff were non existent so i was able to get some nice tranquil shots of a small creek that feeds off of the lake. My eye caught a kingfisher on a branch up ahead so i unsuccessfully tried to get close enough for a about an elusive bird!

I took the lakefront trail back to the north beach before taking the road back to the car. I figured that my total walk distance was close to 4 miles. It was well worth the hassle that goes along with walking up a frozen water slide and it finally gave me that sense that spring is right around the corner.

After months of winter i finally got back to my's where i belong.


]]> (North Sand Photography) Sun, 31 Mar 2013 20:26:02 GMT
Time for winter to end!! 60 degrees yesterday, 8 inches of snow today and -10 to -20 wind chills tomorrow....welcome to Wisconsin.

I am so ready for spring. Looking forward to colorful landscapes and the emergence of new wildlife. Winter certainly brings a challenge to shooting outdoors but it also forces creativity and "out of the box" thinking.

Every night after work I grab one camera, one lens and one dog and head out for our daily walk along the north shore of Lake Mendota. The same winter landscape forces me to find different subjects to key on and taking one lens, whether it's a wide angle, zoom, macro or fisheye forces me to be creative on how I shoot. It's a great way to force you to "see" differently. Sometimes you miss things by not having the right lens, other times you get extremely lucky so it kind of evens out.  

It can be challenging, but also very rewarding when you see the results of your efforts. This winter it was also painful, cold and dirty as I fell on the ice (numerous times), fell through the ice, slid down a muddy embankment and walked through some muck that almost swallowed my boot........but its all part of the adventure.

I hope that you have all enjoyed my winter offerings. It's been a blast finding and shooting them.........well, my knees may not agree or my frozen fingers or the massive bump on my right shin.....but what do they know....

See ya soon   

]]> (North Sand Photography) Wed, 30 Jan 2013 21:18:26 GMT
New Year         Well, 2012 was quite a year. I experienced the highest highs and the lowest lows. I guess that’s what life is all about. I recently saw a quote that read: "Some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next."

That quote clearly sums up my year.

My passion for photography has allowed me to make a great number of new friends during the last year and I am truly thankful for that. I have grown as a photographer but more importantly as a person. I have been dealt some rough hands this year but have emerged a better person thanks to all of the people who found it in their hearts to support me. Thank you.

2013 will bring new challenges on the job front, but hey, it’s all about new beginnings…..right?

I am excited about 2013. Will there be hardships? I’m planning on it, but the thought of the unknown is pretty exciting……….

In 2008 I upgraded my camera equipment from film to digital with the hope that I could find the drive (that I had in the early 80’s) of becoming a good and knowledgeable photographer. That drive picked up right where it left off and I once again became obsessed with learning everything I could about photography. What I love about this medium is that it’s a never ending educational process. There is always something new to learn.

Four years later I have done things that I didn’t think possible and knowing that people like and appreciate the photos that I have worked so hard to produce is beyond anything I could have imagined.

To me, being an effective artist means never truly being satisfied with your work. I am always looking to take it to the next level through education and experimentation. It never ends……I love it!

So, 2013….the only thing I know is that it won’t be like 2012. It will be 12 months of new beginnings and I can’t wait to see what happens.

Looking forward to seeing all those friendly faces on the art show circuit and crossing paths with the ones that I have yet to meet.

Photography is my passion. My work may change but I promise you that it will never be boring. As I have said before, "thanks for hanging with me", the journey wouldn’t be the same without you….


Wishing all of you a spectacular new year…


]]> (North Sand Photography) Tue, 18 Dec 2012 17:51:37 GMT
Back and ready to go Well, that drive to get out and create great photographs is back. I cannot wait to get back out there to see what I can find. The last 8 weeks have been brutal for me and it feels like I have weathered the least this one for now. It feels great to have that excitement back. I have truly missed it.

So, what to do? Where to go? What new techniques do I want to try? Don't way to find out is to get out there and drive, find those back roads again and do my best to "get lost". Now that fall has passed, color becomes a tough find. For me, winter is all about barren landscapes and new weather obstacles. Do I attempt another early morning in the dead of winter hike to the top of Devils Lake?? I've survived two of those already. Will I be pushing my luck with a third?

I met a lot of great people during my shows this year and many of them gave me directions to places that they thought I would find interesting. Maybe that will be my plan. Follow the notes that I took and see what happens

All I know is that I belong behind the camera and that is where I am going to go.....back to my sanctuary, back to the place that brings me peacefulness. I'll do my best to continue to bring you the best photos that I can produce. Thanks for hanging with me.


]]> (North Sand Photography) Tue, 13 Nov 2012 20:57:28 GMT