Skip navigation

Monthly Archives: June 2010

Living in the city tends to limit stargazing.  The stars are much more readily available to the eye when one travels to a truly remote area such as the Gunflint Trail.  The mosquitos can sometimes limit the duration of a session, but stargazing under such  clear firmament is worth the risk.  Ursa Major simply does not look like this in an urban sky.

The Gunflint Trail is a wonderful place to hike, canoe, and kayak; and I spend much time engaged in all three of these endeavors when there.  However, some days are necessarily slower than others.

One of the more enjoyable elements I have discovered over the past years is that the Gunflint Trail and the surrounding BWCA are full of natural surprises large and small.  An example are the wild lilies my family and I noticed while hiking Magnetic Rock Trail.  I personally think these blossoms rival any urban cultivar I have seen.

It has been some time since I last posted, much longer than I had intended.  The past few weeks have been taken by teaching, attending a brief professional conference, and then spending a glorious full week in a cabin on the Gunflint Trail among the northwoods of Minnesota.

The Gunflint Trail is a small, 57-mile highway that stretches from Grand Marais on the northwest shore of Lake Superior up through a relative sliver of woods surrounded by the protected wilderness of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA).  The proximity of this jewel of the National Wilderness Preservation System results in a sense of wildness and quiet along the Gunflint.  It also presents an exceptional location for nature photography.

I will have more to write about my week on the Gunflint in the days ahead.  For now, I shall begin by saying that one of my favorite experiences on the Gunflint is the evenings.

My good friend Brian Kolstad just posted some comments on what I suspect is a common but little-discussed phenomenon among photographers.  Modern lens technology provides myriad options in a zoom factor.  Historically, a photographer opted for some number of prime lenses that provided her with the desired angles of view to complement her artistic vision.  For example, a nature photographer might carry in his bag a 24mm, 50mm, and perhaps some variant of the ubiquitous 70-200mm.  Zoom lenses were understood to have particular value in the telephoto range because of the much smaller change in angle of view per millimeter of zoom than would be seen at wide angles.

Photographers are now able to purchase zooms in almost any range.  I think what Brian writes is correct.  There is a tendency to unintentionally treat many zoom lenses as bifocal primes.  In other words, a 70-200mm lens may often be used as a 70mm lens and 200mm lens, but with little us of the intermediate angles of view.  I am as guilty of this as anyone, typically shooting my 70-300mm lens at 300mm and almost exclusively for closeup work.  I am attempting to correct this reliance on the extremes.

The photograph below is an example of shooting in the middle.  While hiking in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, I came upon these natural bonsai trees growing from the rocks.  There was little ability for me to move off of the trail, so I relied on the ability of a zoom lens to accommodate my position.  I shot this photograph at 25mm with an 18-55mm lens.