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Moonrise shutterbugs

Posted byLee Radzak on 08 Feb 2012 | Tagged as: Events, Nature, Observations, Photography, Seasons, Uncategorized

This may have been a poor winter on the North Shore for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing but it has been a good winter for watching the full moon.  Each year, between November and March, photographers line up on the shoreline of Lake Superior in the state park to catch the full moonrise lined up behind Split Rock Lighthouse.
Moonrise, 7February12 
With the lack of snow and the unseasonably warm temperatures this winter more people than ever have set up tripods at sunset to catch the moon rising out of the lake right off of the lighthouse cliff.  Last night I spent about an hour on the rocky shoreline with a half a dozen or so shutterbugs who came equiped with an amazing array of equipment.  I snapped a few shots then mainly got out of the way.  Some of these people are very serious and focused on the sole mission of capturing “the” shot.  It was like watching a choreographed dance as the group scampered with tripods across the icy rocks to try to rearrange their equipment to keep up with the rising moon and to keep it in line with the distant lighthouse and cliff.  Full February moon
I seems that there is (or should be) an unspoken photographer’s etiquette, or maybe it’s just a gentleman’s agreement, that implies that a photographer not set up their tripod and camera directly between the subject and cameras already shooting the same scene. 
photographersAnyway, it ended up being more fun capturing the activity in front of and behind me along the shore.p10600461 
The moon will be there once a month, but then again so will the shutterbugs.

The Shutdown is Over!

Posted byLee Radzak on 21 Jul 2011 | Tagged as: Events, History, Nature, Observations, Photography, Seasons, Uncategorized

After 21 days, the State of Minnesota goverment shutdown is over!  Split Rock, and the other Minnesota state historic sites will be open tomorrow, so we can get back to business.  The shutdown was frustrating in that it came at the time when so many people are traveling on the North Shore and wanting to visit all of the sites and state parks, all of which were closed.  The shutdown created an unfortunate situation with the closing of all the state parks and state historic sites, such as Split Rock Lighthouse.  Tourists had to walk in to the parks as no vehicles were allowed.  This caused some traffic congestion at the entrances to places like Gooseberry Falls and Split Rock Lighthouse State Parks. 

During the state shutdown state park users had to park along Highway 61 and walk into the park.

With no one allowed on the historic lighthouse grounds during the shutdown some of the wildlife got a little bolder and made themselves at home.  A young cow moose dined on the Virginia creeper planted near the lightkeeper’s houses on a couple of quiet mornings.  This will change tomorrow when the site reopens for its regular hours of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day. 
This moose was as curious as nervous as she browsed on the Virginia creeper.
This moose was as curious as nervous as she browsed on the Virginia creeper.

Split Rock moose

Photographing the January full moon over Split Rock

Posted byLee Radzak on 21 Jan 2011 | Tagged as: Events, Nature, Observations, Photography, Seasons

The full moon breaking through the parting clouds a half hour after sunset.

The full moon breaking through the parting clouds a half hour after sunset.

Each year more and more photographers are wise to the fact that the January full moon is the best moonrise of the year for catching a full moon rising out of Lake Superior behind Split Rock Lighthouse.  On Wednesday afternoon about a dozen people, some like me who are not professional photographers waited in anticipation for the clouds and frost smoke over the lake to break and the full moon to show itself. 

The sun breaks through

A break in the clouds as the sun sets gives a glow to the lighthouse cliff.

This tradition began in 1983 when Paul Sundberg and I skiied down to Little Two Harbors from the lighthouse (that was away back before any roads or trails were developed in the state park). We had it all to ourselves on those January nights for the next few years. By the 1990’s we were noticing other photographers picking up on the idea and the cooperative and scenic full moonrises of January. 

Come prepared and this is a special time to visit with other photographers and folks who like to take pictures, who like the quiet of the frigid open waters of Lake Superior at sunset, or the view of the lighthouse from Pebble Beach and Little Two Harbors.  Dress warm, bring extra camera batteries and a flashlight, and you are often treated to some good conversation or some amazing solitude and scenery

Not all of the good scenes include the lighthouse.  Ellingson Island in the dusk.

Not all of the good scenes include the lighthouse. Ellingson Island in the dusk.


First beacon lighting of the season

Posted byLee Radzak on 09 May 2010 | Tagged as: 100th Anniversary, Events, History, Nature, Observations, Seasons

Last Friday evening, May 7, we held the first “First Friday” evening event of the centennial summer celebrations at Split Rock Lighthouse.  The northeast wind and spitting snow made it feel more like November than May but a lot of people showed up for the program by Dennis O’Hara, famed Duluth photographer, and for the beacon lighting at sunset.  His website, www.northernimages.com is really worth looking at.

Of course it was so overcast on Friday that there was no “sunset” to speak of but I lit the beacon at 8:23, the official time of sunset on the North Shore, and kept it on for an hour.  For those who want to get a look at the beacon lit we will be lighting it the first Friday of every month through November.  The programs and speakers require tickets that can be ordered through the Split Rock website but the beacon lightings are open to the public and only require a state park vehicle permit.

raven nest on cliff below lighthouse Even though spring is coming very slowly this far north and this close to the big lake the animals are all ratcheting up their activity.  For the fifth year in a row the same pair of ravens is nesting on the cliff right below the lighthouse.  The young ravens just left the nest over the weekend but are sticking very close to ma and pa.  The ruckus they make beginning at 5:00 a.m. is enough to get me up for a closer look as they cling to the birch trees at the top of the cliff.  There is no sleeping once the ravens are up. 

raven-chick_8may Usually the hummingbirds show up the first week in May so we have had the feeders out for a couple of weeks already.  Should be soon.   Now if that pesky northeast wind off the lake would simmer down we may be able to get some temps above the mid fifties.

Wintering at Split Rock Lighthouse

Posted byLee Radzak on 02 Jan 2010 | Tagged as: 100th Anniversary, Events, History, Nature, Observations, Seasons

ore-boat-in-frost-smoke-6jan04Winter is a quieter time at the lighthouse, and along the North Shore in general.  It seems like this first week of each new year winter wants to get serious about letting us know how far the sun is away from our hemisphere and the temperatures drop like a rock thrown into the lake.  This week the highs might get into single digits above and the lows at night are in the minus teen and twenties.p10700341 


For those hardy folks that make the winter trek to the North Shore over the holidays (and there are an amazing number of people around this week) they can be rewarded with some spectacular conditions and photographs.  This is the month when the full moon rises behind the lighthouse at sunset behind the lighthouse.  Twenty years ago there were only a few people that knew about this or were interested in taking photographs of the moonrise.  For this last moonrise on December 31 at least a dozen photographers who were willing to abide the single digit temperatures they were rewarded with a beautiful moonrise with just the right amount of cloud cover to make the photos more interesting.

Satellite image of lake-effect snows This is also the time of year for lake effect snow.  With the prevailing north or northwest winds in the winter the North Shore gets far less lake effect snow than the south shore of Lake Superior.    From Split Rock you can watch the frigid winds pulling the moisture from the warmer lake in the form of sea-smoke (the old time local commercial fisherman called it “frost-smoke”).  The tendrils of steam rise and move across the lake and as it comes in contact with the higher elevations along the far shore it drops this moisture as very fluffy snow…often feet at at time!  The big lake will be ice free for another month before the water temperature drops enough for it to make ice on calm nights in early February.Sea smoke at -35 degrees F.

The pastel colors of winter sunrises and sunsets, the bright sunlight and steam off the lake, and the quieter traffic does make this time of year a peaceful counterpoint to the hectic summers at the historic site.  But then again, there is planning for the Split Rock centennial to see to.

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