Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Digital Magic In Photography

One never knows when a photographic idea will hit you. One that hit me while returning from an assignment up North has finally come to fruit. CROIX AND THE MAGIC BURL.

Eight years ago I took a class at the North House Folk School in Grand Marais, Minnesota. It was called; Wood Bowl Turning-Norwegian Ale Bowls. Basically, I learned to turn wooden bowls using a centuries old technique using just a wooden pole and a rope.

I had a blast and still enjoy turning bowls as a hobby. But, I did switch over to a power lathe!

Such diversions for artists are a natural release. It's not uncommon for artists to find another creative adventure outside of their own creative passion. I took to wood turning like a squirrel to a bird feeder.
It served as a good source of creative therapy.

Driving home from an assignment up North a few years ago, I stopped for a short hike along the Cascade River along Minnesota's North Shore Drive. When I reached the first set of waterfalls, there was an impressive spruce burl just off the trail. It was huge. And, for woodturners, most burls are prized for their exceptional grain patterns. Not spruce.  But, the burl had a funny pattern on it that looked like a face. I fired off a few frames of the burl and moved on.

Back on the highway, that burl face kept gnawing on my brain. Then, it came to me. I should do a book on the forest using the face of old burl as the voice to teaching kids about the forest and trees. So, finally here it is;

Croix And The Magic Burl
A Young Girl Meets A Magic Burl In The Forest 
And Learns The Value Of The Woods.

Here's the links;

PRINT VERSION:  http://www.blurb.com/books/5049117-croix-and-the-magic-burl  
(Shows the entire book)

less expensive version;

eBook:  http://store.blurb.com/ebooks/460166-croix-and-the-magic-burl  
(only shows 11 pages)
One of the decisions in this book that once made, seemed to be a perfect fit, was the digital conversion of my photos to watercolors using Photoshop. I tried it with photographs right out of the gate. But, photographs seemed too definitive, too exacting. Converting to watercolors allowed some room for the imagination to wander. This felt like the appropriate technique for a young kids book.
Some images worked and others didn't. But, that's true with every story you shoot. Tough editing, even eliminating those you really want to share, is imperative for the collective good. Otherwise your project can travel down paths less focused on the theme. Stick to your guns and be a tough editor.

Using the available tools in today's digital climate can be a tremendous advantage for your creative outlet. I was amazed at the transformation of my images into another medium. I was very suspect and concerned it would fail horribly.  Instead, it served up just the right look. I got what I wanted and hope to tackle another one some day when the inspiration strikes.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Winter Dogsledding Photo Adventure

Dogsledding across frozen Baffin Bay with Greenland's Polar Inuit
for Smithsonian Magazine.

 Growing up in Alaska and making the move to tropical Minnesota was no big deal. We still had winter, still had mosquitoes. I thought for sure I'd miss the immense natural scale that is Alaska. But, here at 47ยบ North, we have the Great Lake Superior and the big pond suited me just fine for exploring natural landscapes bigger than life. No matter how much I try, I'll never complete my journey exploring that lake.

When it comes to winter up here, it's best to laugh at the cold rather than be laughed at. In fact, by participating in the cold, you find it can be quite intoxicating. I like it because less people are out, and if you venture into wilderness, you see a virgin winter others will never experience. 

I love this quote by Sinclair Lewis;
"Winter is not a season, it's an occupation."

New Canadian Inuit pups watch the action, waiting for their turn in the future.
So, every year I get my winter fix by going dogsledding. I've been lucky over the years to have dogsledded in many places around the world. Years ago, shooting an assignment for Smithsonian Magazine I traveled with Arctic Explorer Paul Schurke in Greenland with the Polar Inuit. It was a magnificent story to work on documenting these remote people. And, traveling with such experienced polar personalities cemented my desire to partake in a dogsledding trek each and every year since.
Polar Explorer Paul Schurke at his Ely, Minnesota Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge
I've been running photo adventure dogsledding workshops with Paul at his Ely, Minnesota WINTERGREEN DOGSLED LODGE (http://www.dogsledding.com/) for over twenty years now. It never gets old. As soon as the first snowflakes fly and lake ice firms up, it reminds me its getting close. And, there's good reason to be excited. Look at some of the accolades Wintergreen has gotten;

What the Experts Say About Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge!

-Flash News! We're featured in National Geographic Traveler Nov '1
-National Geographic.com says: 'Mush with the best' at Wintergreen
-DigitalCity: Selected us among "coolest alternatives to skiing!
-Outside magazine: Ranked us in "Top 10" small outdoor businesses
-SmarterTravel.com: Ranked us in "10 Best Adventure Travel Bargains
-PBS-TV: Selected us among Top 6 "Adventure Lodges"
-Good Morning America: Rated us "perfect destination" for dogsledding
-Travel Channel: Featured us on the "Samantha Brown Show
-National Geographic Traveler: Featured us as a 2009 top destination
-Minnesota Monthly: Selected us among state's "Top Ten" lodge
-NBC Today Show: Featured us in it's January 2013 Inaugural Event coverage

I believe there's a common misconception about winter for most folks. That it's freezing cold, your fingers and toes will fall off, snot will freeze on my nose, ect. It's not that bad!

The staff at Wintergreen educates everyone on how to stay warm. Your gear is examined and if you don't have what you need, it's provided. The guides, well I call them thoroughbreds, are amazing. You'll be lucky in your lifetime to witness people who can cross country ski like these folks. Quite frankly, it's simply inspirational.
Mushing across a frozen wilderness lake in N.E. Minnesota
All dogsledding outfits run things in their own unique way. The history of dogsledding is not lost in the culture of mushing at Wintergreen. Using mostly Canadian Inuit Dogs, they are big, strong and fun to work with. Animals this size normally freak out the normal Joe walking down the street. But, these creatures are gentle with people and wonderful to work with. One of the reasons why is something that happens right at birth. The newborn pups are handled by staff immediately after birth to etch in the pup's mind that people are good to be around. Kinda like a extra Mom so to speak. Its all part of the Wintergreen vibe and it works!
Kristen, a Wintergreen Guide, stands near the WALL OF FAME
honoring dogs that have passed away but made their mark.
There's such a exceptional variety of visual material on a dogsledding trip. Naturally, its mostly about the dogs, but there's also everything surrounding the mushing experience. Capturing imagery of the guides, the night skies, the pups, and infamous dogyard, make for a rewarding an image packed winter experience.

Tossing a ladle of hot water instantly vaporizes in the frigid air making
winter a laboratory for both nature and science.

Gliding along the frozen expanse of White Iron Lake, Minnesota
near Wintergreen Lodge

Shooting in winter can be challenging, there's no gettin' around that. The secret is stopping when you need too and getting the photos. It's that simple! If you keep waiting, it never happens. By varying your angles, how you capture the action, the portraits, and the locations you visit, slowly you will realize you've captured an extraordinary winter experience. There's more to winter than you thought.

Warming tent in the woods at Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge

Overcast days and late afternoon light can be perfect opportunities to capture motion
while zipping through the forest.
Portraits are always important on any assignment. Whether its people or pooches!
If you feel like winter is a slow time for your photography outings, consider taking a winter trek. I promise you will not be disappointed. A dogsledding trip at places like Wintergreen will definately check that box off your bucket list and offer you a whole new perspective on the joys of winter.