David Barthel - North Shore Images PhotographyDavid Barthel North Shore Images Photography
David Barthel

Photo Journal & News

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Upcoming Holiday Art Fairs

Looking for a unique gift for that special someone?! Mark your calendars for Saturday, December 3rd.

Art at Ramsey is the Twin Cities' premier holiday art show. It runs from 10am - 5pm, Saturday, December 3 and is located at the Ramsey Junior High School gymnasium, along Saint Paul's beautiful Summit Avenue between Fairview and Snelling (just west of Macalester College). Over 70 artists, including yours truly, will be there, displaying and selling their fine arts and crafts. For more information, please click on the image below or visit www.artatramsey.org.

Holly Day Arts and Crafts Fair takes place on Thursday, December 8th from 10am - 4pm inside Atwood Center on the campus of St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud. This small show presents the work of about 15 local artists and crafters. I'll be among them. More information here.

As a final note, my North Shore, Lake Superior, and Western landscape photography is on exhibit at the St. Cloud Public Library (both levels) now through December 10th. All photographs are available for purchase.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

One Light to Remember

It was thirty-six years ago on November 10 when a large iron ore freighter encountered a fierce November storm on Lake Superior and, despite modern technology, succumbed to its ravages. This ship, of course, was the Edmund Fitzgerald. The freighter and its 29 crew members were later immortalized in Gordon Lightfoot's song, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. While visitors congregated near the lighthouse on this evening for a variety of reasons, I think most, at least in the backs of their minds, gave some thought to the true reasons behind this beacon lighting and the lighthouse itself.

Indeed, photography was the primary motivator that brought me to the lighthouse on this evening. But, it wasn't the beacon lighting itself that piqued my interest this year. I was anticipating what would have been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to photograph, in ideal lighting, the full moon rising from behind the lighthouse on the very night the beacon is lighted every year. My hopes were obscured by a low deck of clouds that refused to part to show the heavenly orb's conjunction with Split Rock's lantern.

A full moon on any given night of the year occurs, on average, about once every 30 years. Thus, a November 10th full moon is a relatively rare occurrence. Often, however, the night before the day of a full moon is suitable (and sometimes preferred) for landscape photography containing the moon. Nevertheless, in examining moonrise times and positions for November 10ths spanning the next 125 years, I have found no future opportunities to photograph the full moon rising from directly behind the lighthouse under good lighting conditions during the beacon lighting events. A handful of full moons on or near November 10 will occur over this period, but none of them will be nearly as ideal, in both azimuth and timing, as this year's would have been if not for the clouds.

Without the moon visible, I took an unusually minimal approach to my photography - I clicked the shutter only twelve times during the entire evening. The photograph you see here is one of them, made near the spot I captured my iconic image, Lunar Light at Full Power, about two years ago. It is not the stereotypical view of the lighthouse overlooking an expansive Lake Superior. I like this composition for the conifers on the rocky point, giving the lighthouse setting a more isolated, northwoods feel.

Was I disappointed in not seeing the full moon on that evening? Of course. But then, in trying to keep the context in mind, I reached into the back of my mind and remembered the real reason I was there. The 29 men aboard the Fitzgerald that fateful night 36 years ago missed so much more.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Upcoming Event: Split Rock Lighthouse Beacon Lighting

The evening of November 10 is when true Split Rock Lighthouse aficionados gather near the historic landmark or along its shores for the annual beacon lighting in commemoration of the Edmund Fitzgerald's fateful last Lake Superior voyage.

The beacon will be lit just after 4:30 PM this Thursday, immediately following the commemoration ceremony.

Little Two Harbors, of course, will become a temporary tripod village as eager photographers try to capture the lighthouse in its illuminated glory.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Visions of Autumn

First, I'd like to welcome several new subscribers to this photo journal from recent art fairs. Thank you for following my work, and I hope you'll enjoy receiving these updates.

In late September and early October, I camped for 10 consecutive days along Minnesota's Lake Superior North Shore while hiking and photographing the region during peak autumn color. This extended stay among the amazing fall landscape allowed me to visit new locations as well as locations I haven't photographed in years.

Fair weather dominated the peak color season this year. These conditions are not always the best for photography, but they were a blessing for those who were camping, hiking, or just out enjoying the autumn splendor.

This year, the best show of color was generally inland from the lake where the maples set the forest ablaze with fiery hues. The birch and aspen also held nice colors in several spots, but in some spots along the shore, the winds blew down their leaves before they reached peak.

I was fortunate to create a large number of new autumn photographs. The images below represent an early selection from those. I will be posting many more images over the coming weeks as I process them.

I could ramble on, but I will let the photographs speak for themselves . . .

Autumn Dawn - Hunter's Rock

Poplar River Overlook in Autumn

Maple Leaf Impressionism

Spin on Maples

Sunset - Carlton Peak

Four Birches in Fall Forest

Beaver Bay Dusk

Autumn Afternoon - Split Rock Lighthouse

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Before the Storm - Eagle Harbor Light

I've spent several years traversing seemingly every nook and cranny Lake Superior's North Shore has to offer (I'm far from done!). Superior's other shore always seemed to lurk on the distant horizon, both geographically and in my itinerary. Last month, I finally ventured into parts of this new (for me) territory: Lake Superior's South Shore.

Having spent so much time on the North Shore, I immediately took note of a difference in South Shore life. The South Shore seems to have more of a recreational atmosphere regarding the water with miles of white sand beaches and plenty of boats and kayaks to be found.

My brief survey of the South Shore took me from from Superior, Wisconsin to Copper Harbor in Upper Michigan. One of my most memorable moments from this excursion was standing along the shore below the Eagle Harbor Lighthouse on Upper Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula with a storm front moving in from the west. Perfect! Most photographers know that bad weather often results in the best photographs. As lightning flashed over the lake, I was carefully trying to capture, through a photograph, the mood of this place with a storm coming from behind. I made several exposures near the shore before the storm closed in and became too close for comfort. I then retreated to near the lighthouse to try a few more compositions. The storm seemed relatively tame until I noticed a very ominous-looking cloud deck racing toward the area. I finally gathered my gear and scurried to my car just as a fierce wind started blowing and rain started falling.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Showy Lady's Slippers

The Showy Lady's Slipper orchid is well-recognized by Minnesotan's as their state flower. Yet, many state residents have never seen one in person. I was one of those poor souls until about a month ago when I ventured up to Jay Cooke State Park in search of what seemed to be an elusive flower.

I knew Jay Cooke was home to patches of Lady's Slippers and was told at one time approximately where to find them, but I was not completely sure of their locations. Without the assistance of the park staff (this was during Minnesota's state government shutdown), I painstakingly combed the park trails near the visitor center in search of the unique pink and white blossoms. After about an hour and many second thoughts about the flowers being past bloom, I finally stood next to a patch of about a dozen of these magnificent orchid blossoms just off the trail. I was thrilled at the chance to see my state flower for the first time.

My enjoyment of photographing these fine orchid specimens was limited only by an endless barrage of what some folks call Minnesota's unofficial state "bird," the mosquito. The resident mosquitoes were probably as happy to see me as I was in seeing the lady's slippers!

Another photographer later clued me in to the fact that Minnesota's state flower is not so elusive in certain parts of the state. During the month of June, thousands can be found along both the Lady's Slipper Scenic Byway (Beltrami County Road 39 south of Blackduck, MN) and the Wildflower Route (Minnesota Highway 11 between Greenbush and Baudette, MN).

Whether seen by the dozen or the thousands, it is important to note that the Showy Lady's Slipper is a protected species in Minnesota, and therefore, it is unlawful to pick them or uproot them for transplantation.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Announcement: 2011 Show Schedule

The following is my list of art fairs and gallery showings for the remainder of 2011 and early 2012. If you will be at any of these art fairs, please stop by and say hello!

Art Fairs
Gallery Exhibitions

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Gnarled Cedars and Falls

Besides the falls and Lake Superior, the exposed roots of the many riverfront cedars are one of Gooseberry Falls State Park's most signature natural wonders. It seems as though the roots grow directly out of rock, but among their tangled mess, most of the roots are indeed somehow entrenched in moisture-holding soil.

Having hiked most of the lower Gooseberry River valley, I really think this may be one of the most interesting and distinct scenes I have encountered there. I like to think of the big old cedar as "grandpa cedar" and the smaller ones as "the children." There are surely some parallels.

I first debuted this photograph at the Lemonade Art Fair in St. Cloud last month with a very positive response. Few people seem to know that this is Gooseberry Falls at first glance since the falls seen behind the cedars is the much-less photographed Lower Falls of the Gooseberry.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Announcement: 2011 Art Fairs

I am happy to announce that I will, for the first time, be participating in and selling my work at a selection of regional art fairs this summer and fall. My inaugural art fair will be the Lemonade Concert and Art Fair, held on Thursday, June 23, 2011 from 11 AM - 9 PM near Atwood Center on the campus of St. Cloud State University (my alma mater), St. Cloud, MN. I will also have a booth at the Little Falls Arts and Crafts Fair, held on the weekend after Labor Day (September 10-11) in Little Falls, MN. Please stop by my booth and say hello!

I anticipate adding a few fairs to this list over the next several weeks, so please stay tuned. I will post updates on my Facebook page and Twitter stream as these events draw nearer.

Early Spring Morning at Split Rock

I am very lucky to be able to live relatively near one of the most beautiful regions in the country. Up and down the North Shore lie impressive and charming locations too numerable to mention. I have visited (and photographed!) many of them and still have much to explore. Yet, my North Shore excursions often seem to bring me back to this iconic landmark - Split Rock Lighthouse.

This cliff-top lighthouse has attracted the eyes of photographers since its construction 101 years ago and has become the most photographed lighthouse on the Great Lakes and perhaps one of the most photographed in the world. It's not hard to imagine why it is so alluring. Not merely a historic lighthouse upon a cliff, it also stands in the midst of a relatively remote and scenic location on Lake Superior's North Shore. The lighthouse is strikingly visible from most of the half-mile of shoreline to the immediate south, providing innumerable viewpoints. Minnesota's four seasons and the ever-changing Lake Superior provide even further opportunities to witness the various moods of this icon.

The image above was made on an April morning in which the temperature was still cold enough to form a thin layer of ice in the small puddles within the rock. The warm hues of the sunrise were subtle, yet attractive. I found myself alone while photographing this scene, as I often do in the mornings here. At a busy place such as Split Rock, mornings can sometimes be the only time of day for the contemplative photographer to consider and compose a scene without distraction. And, mornings often contain the best light of the day, too. It is scenes like these that touch my inner spirit and keep me returning again and again.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Spring Snow at the Cascades

Northlanders know quite well that winter can hold its grip on Northeastern Minnesota well into spring. While nature's calendar now finally seems to be synchronizing with our own with warm temperatures and even bouts of severe weather, just a few short weeks ago, the North Shore received a seemingly requisite spring coating of snow.

Snow adds a distinct dimension to the rushing spring waterfalls of the area. Most people view the waterfalls in a sea of green, during the summer, at the height of travel season. In the middle of winter, when the ground is covered in white, often the falls are partially or completely frozen. There are only a few moments in the fall or spring in which the falls are running and the landscape has elements of white.

I made this photograph at one of my favorite waterfalls on the North Shore - the cascades along the Cascade River. The river was swollen with spring runoff that seemed like it was on a race to meet Lake Superior. This snow was perfect as it clung to the trees for quite some time, leaving an image to behold.

Even in these northern reaches, when winter makes its appearance, it retreats fairly rapidly at this time of year. The sun predominated the following day and melted much of the snow.

The rivers and waterfalls along the North Shore remain very active as recent rains have continued to fuel their awesome power and grandeur.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Abstracted Tulips

Longtime readers and those who know me understand that I spend most of my behind-the-camera time on Lake Superior's North Shore, trying to capture that elusive image that I had, or perhaps had not envisioned. It's sometimes difficult to imagine how anything else can compete with the grandeur found in that region we aptly refer to as "God's Country." Well, sometimes there are great images begging to be made right outside our doors.

May is the month when the tulips bloom where I live, and several are currently in blossom right beside my home. I happened to become intrigued with them this year and took a few photographs. Capturing these tulips in a pleasing manner had its own challenges since the flower bed as a whole was not exactly beautiful with last month's spent daffodils situated just behind these lovely fresh flowers.

I decided to take a semi-abstract approach by composing very close and keeping sharp focus only on the tip of the closest petal and letting the rest of the flower and background fall off into a soft blur. By doing this, I also all but removed the location context of these images.

Interestingly, I made these photographs on the evening of the severe thunderstorm outbreak in central Minnesota. Luckily, we were not impacted by the storms, but the clouds to the east created some unusual light that was perfect for these images.

Tulips have an interesting economic history. "Tulip mania," as it is called, was a period in the early-mid 1600s in Europe in which certain varieties of tulip bulbs became extremely valuable in the marketplace, some reaching hundreds of thousands of dollars in today's dollar value. It is the first recorded economic bubble in human history. After reaching these lofty heights, their values quickly plummeted as it became evident that the extreme prices were quite irrational. Further reading: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulip_mania.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Full Pink Moonrise Over Agate Bay

Readers who examined the title of this entry might at first wonder if I am colorblind. You say, "That moon isn't pink - it's creamy yellow." Yes, you are right - and, I am slightly colorblind, but not nearly to that degree!

Native Americans long ago gave names to each month's full moon with April's being named the "Pink Moon" due to the pink wild ground phlox that was one of the earliest widespread flowers of spring.

Indeed, when the moon first slipped above the horizon on this clear night last Sunday, it was actually more orange than yellow - and quite large - one of the most beautiful I have seen in a while.

Since the late 1890s, the Edna G tugboat has called Two Harbors home, except during a period of World War I in which she provided service on the East Coast. By the 1970s, she was the only steam-powered tug still in service on the Great Lakes. She was finally retired in 1981 and now serves as a floating museum operated by the Lake County Historical Society.

The Edna G is now about as old as some of the oldest living persons. Both have, no doubt, seen remarkable change in their lives. But, one thing has remained the same. Every 29 or so days, given clear skies, the full moon has always made its appearance as if like clockwork. The Edna G has seen hundreds, with no two exactly the same in appearance.

Compared with the Edna G, I have seen few full moonrises. However, each new one I view and photograph has qualities that make it as magical as those that came before.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Edge of the Plains

This is one of those impromptu shots that sort of jumped out at me when I wasn't really expecting to shoot pictures. I was driving north on the freeway out of the Denver area last year when the late-afternoon sky became interesting. Seeing this scene develop while being on a freeway with limited points to exit and stop, I was in a sort of photographer's agony. Time was of the essence, and I worried that the changing atmosphere would soon deny me the opportunity to create a great image. I eventually found this location that presented me with a reasonable view, composed the shot, and made my photograph. It probably wasn't the most dramatic presentation of the sky that evening, but I feel satisfied that I was able to capture the mood and place and share it with you.

Journey Into Abstraction

As a photographer, one of the greatest challenges is taking full advantage of the medium's capabilities to produce imagery that is beyond the ordinary "postcard" shot. I'm not trying to disparage postcard-type images – I make lots of them, they are beautiful, and some are challenging in their own right. But, some very interesting effects can be made by utilizing light in unique ways with the camera. The image above was made at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park in January as I was anticipating making those postcard-like photos of the full moonrise. Just before dusk, I found a stand of birch in the park that I liked and set up my tripod. The effect was created by using a slow shutter speed and panning the camera up and down during the exposure. I was able to use the slow shutter speed since it was late in the day with lower ambient light.

A bit less abstract is this image of floating ice platforms in the Grand Marais Harbor. It is interesting how the movement of the water and ice within the bay results in these varied ice formations.

Lake Superior has some expansive stretches of stone beach. Iona's beach between Gooseberry Falls and Split Rock Lighthouse is one example. Here you can find stones of seemingly most any shape and natural color.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Road Trip Pictorial

If you're sick and tired of winter and longing for greener places and times, you'll enjoy this photographic excursion from my usual North Shore subject matter. These 15 images were shot during my various travels in the Western U.S. during the past two years.

Glacier National Park

The following seven photographs were captured in Glacier National Park in Montana in 2009. My first view of the Rocky Mountains was in this park, where snow-covered slopes majestically rise above pristine alpine lakes and streams. During my mid-June visit, a spring storm rolled through the park, dropping rain and, in the higher elevations, snow. It is surprising to many that the main park road - Going-to-the-Sun Road - is often partly closed well into June because of snow removal operations still taking place.

Late Spring Storm - St. Mary Lake

St Mary Lake greets visitors on the east end of the park. Even though snow was flying in the high elevations, the shores of St. Mary Lake embodied spring with plenty of wildflowers in bloom.

St. Mary Lake

When driving in a national park, if a number of vehicles are suddenly pulled to the side of the road, it is often an indication of a wildlife sighting. I came across this situation and, not knowing what to expect, I also stopped. I soon laid eyes on the first moose I had ever seen in the wild. This moose had entered the marsh to take a drink. After satisfying its thirst, it slowly climbed the hill behind the marsh and disappeared into the woods.

Evidence of Refreshment

Moose Drink

On the western side of the park, Avalanche Creek cuts through a gorge of the same name. The water flowing in the streams in this park is surely the whitest (and probably clearest) that I have seen anywhere.

Avalanche Gorge

Going-to-the-Sun Road cuts through the heart of Glacier National Park, crossing the continental divide at Logan Pass.

Going-to-the-Sun Road

On the western side of the park lies its other large lake, Lake McDonald. It too is surrounded by several prominent peaks.

Lake McDonald


Situated between Puget Sound and the Cascade Range, the Seattle Metropolitan Area is the urban center of one of the most beautiful regions in the U.S.

Downtown Seattle Skyline

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is the first, and probably best known, national park in the U.S. The Old Faithful geyser is the park's star attraction, but the park's variety of geographic features truly makes it a gem. Geysers, hot springs, boiling mud pots, a large alpine lake, mountains, a grand canyon, high waterfalls, and diverse wildlife are just some of the park's treasures.

Crescent Moon Over Yellowstone Lake

Lower Yellowstone Falls

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Badlands National Park

Seemingly in the middle of nowhere, the Badlands of South Dakota is filled with sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles, and spires. A mixed-grass prairie fills the spaces around and between the eroded formations. A surprising aspect of the badlands formations is that they are not rock, but dry soil essentially. One can literally kick the edges of the formations and expedite the erosion process by knocking loose small amounts of the soil. The Badlands is an amazing place to experience.

Badlands Trail

Grand Canyon National Park

It's hard to describe the Grand Canyon with words; it's not much easier with pictures. Its most interesting dimension is depth, but its length and width are also of grand proportions. Over millions of years, the Colorado River has carved through the Colorado Plateau to form the canyon as it is seen today. The erosion process continues and will do so indefinitely.

The image below is from the South Rim at the eastern end of the canyon at Desert View.

Fading Light at Desert View - Grand Canyon

I rarely create black-and-white photographs, but I like this image sans color. The Junipers seem to be growing directly out of the rock.

Widowed Juniper at Moran Point

Yosemite National Park

After a visit to Yosemite National Park in California, nothing else quite measures up. It is truly the crown jewel of the National Park System with huge granite monoliths surrounding a beautifully lush valley. The park contains North America's highest waterfall, Yosemite Falls (pictured below), with a total height of nearly a half-mile. The height of the longest drop (Upper Yosemite Falls) is 1430 feet.

Here, I used the light of the full moon to illuminate Upper Yosemite falls during this nighttime exposure.

Moonlight on Yosemite Falls

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Full Moon's Night

The night of the January full moon is very special for a handful of photographers who ritually gather on the shore below Split Rock Lighthouse awaiting the rise of the winter full moon. This is one of the few nights of the year that the moon can be seen rising from behind the 130-foot cliff that is the foundation of the iconic lighthouse. Unlike the moons of the other winter months, the January full moon has also been the most reliable to see here - it has not failed to appear during the last four years.

I arrived as several other photographers were already setting up, awaiting Earth's only natural satellite to break the horizon. It is sort of a photographer's reunion as many of us have come to know each other over the years through this mutual interest.

Soon, light began to filter through the clouds and the promise of seeing a stellar full moon was imminent. The thin clouds that remained in front of the moon added a nice texture to this later moonrise in which capturing the detail of the moon along with the darker landscape would have been nearly impossible. After snapping several shots, it quickly grew too dark to fully capture the essence of the evening.

With each passing year, new memories are made, and it is the simple ones like these that are most cherished. Despite winter's cold bite, the magic of a moonrise at Split Rock will always be a pleasant experience.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Full Moon's Eve

With a winter rife with overcast skies, obscuring the last few full moons, I was not very optimistic about the odds of catching a glimpse of the January full moon. As I made my way toward Split Rock Lighthouse from overcast Duluth, I started to see light on the horizon and, soon, clear sky.

Once at Split Rock, I quickly parked the car, grabbed my camera gear, and trudged through the snow toward the lake where, to my awe, I saw the moon rising above the cliff. Quite a few clouds remained in the sky, giving the scene an interesting texture. With lots of ice near the shore, I carefully found stable ground and snapped a few shots as the orb continued on its trajectory above the lighthouse.

These photographs were taken on the night before the full moon in which the moon rises at a time in which there remains a fair amount of ambient daylight in the landscape. I returned the following night to a later, but equally stunning, moonrise. I will post an image from that night within the next day or so. Stay tuned . . .

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sheltered Sunrise

Gooseberry Falls State Park is best known for its namesake falls on the Gooseberry River, but its rich Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) history is what distinguishes this park from others. The CCC was a public work relief program for unemployed young men during the Great Depression. Its mission provided for the conservation and development government-owned natural resources while putting unemployed young men to work for a modest wage. Gooseberry Falls had its very own CCC camp from 1933-1942.

The efforts of the CCC "boys" essentially helped bring Gooseberry Falls State Park into official existence in 1937. According to the Minnesota DNR, over 80 buildings, structures, or objects constructed during the CCC era are found within the park. Lakeview shelter, pictured above, is one of these CCC-era buildings. Its stonework, as also seen on many other structures, is a hallmark of CCC work.

Winter Sunrise

As you can see, with the reflection of the sunrise over Lake Superior, the shelter certainly lives up to its name! I can only imagine the innumerable spectacular Lake Superior sunrises that have been cast upon these windows. I will never tire of seeing another Lake Superior sunrise (although waking up early for them can sometimes be tiring!).

While I was photographing the shelter, I found this lone large pine next to it rather interesting with the placement of picnic tables around it. Of course, I aptly named this image, "Picnic Pine."