Horseshoe Lake, Illinois Sunrise, Bald cypress and Tupelo trees

Olive Branch Illinois, in Alexander County, is the home of Horseshoe Lake, not to be confused with Horseshoe Lake in Madison County.

Horseshoe Lake is an oxbow lake in Alexander County, Illinois. It is the site of Illinois’s Horseshoe Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area, a state park 10,645 acres (43 km2) in size. A remnant of a large meander of the Mississippi River, it is today a shallow, isolated patch of water located near Cairo and the southern tip of Illinois.

The Alexander County lake has major problems with siltation. During the Great Flood of 1993 the river tried to shift back to the Horseshoe Lake meander, but returned to its modern channel after the flood subsided. Much of the lake resembles a swamp or bayou. This is one of the northernmost parts of the natural ranges of the Bald cypress and Tupelo trees, which are found on the shoreline of the lake. Another tree found here is the swamp cottonwood. There is a good growth of the flowering American lotus.

Feature Image Details

The feature image shows Bald cypress and Tupelo trees at sunrise.

For the image, I used a Canon 16-35MM F4 L Lens at 30mm, for 1/8 of a second at ISO 400, f16.

Tips

  • The key to reflection images such as these is for the water to be in the shade.
  • Play around with various exposures and time durations.
  • Get low to the water! Sometimes you cannot see any reflections unless you get low. Find a composition you like, then set up the tripod in that position.

Here are some more images from the same morning.

I like the above image a lot. It distinctly shows the Bald Cypress trees. It was taken with a  Canon 14MM F2.8 L Lens. I did not have my tilt shift lens with me at the time. It was in the car. Had I walked back to get it, I would have missed the shot.

The trees were hugely pointed in, but I corrected the perspective in Photoshop. A Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L Tilt-Shift Lens would have been about perfect.

Here’s a clip of what it looked like as shot.

Perspective controls in Photoshop are amazing but it is better to use the right lens.

Glorious Sunrise

The above image was taken with a Canon 100-400 MM F 4.5-5.6 L Lens. I seldom carry that lens, simply because of the weight. I had it with me because I knew there were opportunities like this.

Hatfield vs McCoy

Horseshoe Lake is not a “family destination”. There are few services and unless you are interested in photography, fishing, or birding, there is little else to do.

The above images are recent and digital, but here’s my story from twenty years ago that highlights the issue.

In the immediate area, there was then and there still is today precisely one place to eat, and it’s in a bar. I sat down at the bar and asked for a menu.

Then I made a mistake: I asked the person sitting next to me a question about the number of the geese in the fall. This was the resultant conversation.

Me: Is this an average year for geese in the area.

Him: Do I know you?

Me: I’m Mike – cutoff

Him: Are you from the DNR?

Me: I’m Mike – cutoff

Him: I did not ask you who you are. I asked if you were from the DNR.

At that point, he pulled out a gun, pointed it at my head and said If you are from the DNR I’m going to blow you away.

I assured him that I was not from the DNR and he put the gun away.

I should have immediately left at that point, but I had already ordered dinner and waited for it. The man who pulled the gun on me started talking to the person next to him. The other fellow mentioned that his daughter was dating someone who he did not know.

As you might imagine from this, our “hero” said that if his daughter was dating someone he would know when he got up, where he went, and would stake him out until he knew everything about him.

The next day, I filled up at a gas station and a young kid came out to pump. This was not self-service yet. I told the kid what happened and he laughed.

He then said: “I am not surprised. In fact, if anyone sees me talking to you, I can get in serious trouble.”

The moral of this story is please do not try to talk to anyone in deep Southern Illinois unless you know them.

Equipment List

Those interested in my equipment and recommendations can find it here: Mish’s Equipment List.

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Coming up next: Another new destination.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Porcupine Mountains State Park: Lake of the Clouds

One does not have to travel West, East, South, or overseas to make excellent images. The Midwest is tremendously overlooked as a photography location.

One of my favorite Midwest spots is Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in the Michigan upper peninsula.

The park offers 90 miles of trails, beautiful lakes, and numerous waterfalls. It also offers an immense amount of biting insects (black flies, mosquitoes, gnats, and other major nuisances).

The best way to avoid these annoying pests (they are worst in June and July), is to go offseason. Fall and Winter are my favorite times. In the Winter the park offers both downhill and cross-country ski trails.

This post covers Autumn opportunities.

The park has three main sections: Lake of the Clouds (plus the shoreline), the interior, and the river (waterfall) section. This post covers the Lake of the Clouds section.

One can drive to the top, hike a short distance, and take the same shots as millions of others, or one can go off the beaten path. The feature image is decidedly off the beaten path.

All of these images are from mid-October. They represent what you can look forward to.

Off the Beaten Path

My wife Liz and I, along with one other person, shared that glorious sunset.

To get to that spot, one can hike along the Escarpment Trail from the main Lake of the Clouds parking lot or one can take a 30-45 minute uphill trail that I would rate as moderate. It can be a scramble in some places and it is hard to locate. The trail is near a mine on the left as one is heading up towards the main Lake in the Clouds parking area.

The spot is excellent at both sunrise and sunset. For the former, you need to allow plenty of time.

I advise taking the trail during the day so you know exactly what to expect. Here are more images from this fantastic location.

The above two images were early morning. Liz and I hiked up at sunrise. Unfortunately, the clouds were just a little late. They would have turned pink at sunrise but they blew in after sunrise.

Main Lake of the Clouds Area

I took that image from the main viewing area at sunrise. It may look secluded, but it isn’t and it won’t be.

Here is a view from the opposite direction.

That image was well before dawn. I count 13 people in that scene but there were at least another dozen downhill that you cannot see. More came before sunrise and shortly after sunrise, there were at least 60 people.

The spot is large enough to accommodate everyone. I am merely pointing out you better expect lots of other people no matter how nasty the weather. I have been to this spot when it was rainy and windy with at least a dozen others all hoping for a break in the clouds.

Equipment List

Those interested in my equipment and recommendations can find it here: Mish’s Equipment List.

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Top 100 Nature Photography Websites

Feedspot just featured me in their list of Top 100 Nature Photography Blogs & Websites To Follow in 2018.

There is a nominal charge of $2 per month to track whatever sites you wish to follow and see new sites as they come on board. I consider it worth it.

Coming up next: More Michigan Autumn images.

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You can also follow me on Twitter! I have both an economic forum and a photography forum.

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MishMoments is a subset of MishGEA. Those interested in photography only should follow the former.

Please do. Thanks!

Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Death Valley: Badwater, Salt Polygons, Devil’s Golf Course

Death Valley National Park is a phenomenal study of erosion, weather, geology, sand dunes, salt formations, and huge spring wildflower blooms on rare occasions.

This post covers the Badwater Basin Salt Flats.

Badwater is the lowest point in the US, 282 feet below sea level.

The salt flats in Badwater Basin cover nearly 200 square miles, among the largest protected salt flats in the world. Salt flats are too harsh for most plants and animals to survive, yet are quite fragile. Delicate crystals are easily crushed and the relatively thin upper crust of salt can break through to the mud layer below, leaving tire tracks and even footprints. For this reason, vehicles are prohibited off established roads in Death Valley.

Feature Image Details

Badwater, shown below is the popular stopping spot. You can explore salt polygons at Badwater, but they are trampled flat. To find good salt polygons, you need to park a mile or more away and walk out over some uneven but walkable terrain.

Badwater Sunrise

Badwater typically has a small pool of obviously undrinkable water. The white on the ground is salt. The white in the mountains is snow.

Devil’s Golf Course

Imagine trying to play golf on that surface. The salt is razor sharp. If you fall you will get cut with salt injected straight into the cut.

The above image is the Devil’s Golf Course at sunset with a Canon 14MM F2.8 L Lens. I now recommend the Canon 11-24 F4.0 L lens as a new replacement for the 14MM lens. It is the best wide angle zoom lens in the world. Period. Yes, it is very expensive. It is sharp in the corners, little or no astigmatism, or other common zoom lens flaws. At 11-24 MM it is the widest zoom lens around and it is sharp.

These images were all taken at sunrise or sunset, in the Badwater Basin area.

Those interested in my equipment and recommendations can find it here: Mish’s Equipment List.

If you missed them, please check out my previous articles.

  1. Death Valley: Zabriskie Point Sunrise, Manly Beacon
  2. Death Valley: Dante’s View Sunrise
  3. Death Valley: Artist’s Palette
  4. Death Valley: Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes Sunset

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Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Death Valley: Dante’s View Sunrise

Death Valley National Park is a phenomenal study of erosion, weather, geology, sand dunes, salt formations, and huge spring wildflower blooms on rare occasions.

This post covers Dante’s View at an elevation of 5,475 feet (1669 meters). It’s an easy paved road to the top, weather permitting. In the winter, the park service may close the road because of snow.

Feature Image Details

This a primarily a pre-dawn shot. As soon as the sun hits the opposite peaks there is enormous contrast. In the afternoon, you will be shooting into very harsh light, if not straight into the sun.

Even more so than Zabriskie Point, do not be late for Dante’s View. Plan to be at the top no later than 30 minutes before sunrise.

You do not need clouds for the image to work. Frequently you can catch the Belts of Venus, pink bands of light just above the horizon as I have in the feature image, but with some clouds.

Salt

That’s not snow on the ground. It’s salt. Dante’s View is a sweeping panorama of Badwater Basin, over a mile below.

Foreground Subject

One of the difficulties photographing Dante’s View is lack of a foreground subject. I took the feature image very close to the parking lot. There are trails, and I scouted them out, but the views do not improve much.

Second Pre-Dawn Image 

If you arrive early, watch the light behind you. The above two shots were not taken on the same day.

Those interested in my equipment and recommendations can find it here: Mish’s Equipment List.

Zabriskie Point

If you missed it, please check out my previous article Death Valley: Zabriskie Point Sunrise, Manly Beacon.

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Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Death Valley: Zabriskie Point Sunrise, Manly Beacon

Death Valley National Park is a phenomenal study of erosion, weather, geology, sand dunes, salt formations, and huge spring wildflower blooms on rare occasions.

One of the “must see” areas is Zabriskie Point.

Manly Beacon is the high triangular-shaped outcrop on the right. Manly Beacon was named in honor of William L. Manly, who along with John Rogers, guided members of the ill-fated Forty-niners out of Death Valley during the gold rush of 1849.

Get to this spot well before sunrise. As soon as the sunrise light hits the Panamint Mountain Range on the opposite side of the valley, the shot will soon be over.

Also, you need clouds for the shot to work. If there are no clouds, try another location. The sand dunes and Dante’s View (both coming up) are better choices if the light is not dramatic.

Feature Image Details

I consider this light to be good quality and the air was clear. I would have preferred better clouds over the Panamint Range across the valley, but the clouds worked nicely as a panorama.

Manly Beacon

That is one of the images in the panorama.

By the time light hits Manly Beacon, the best images were long ago in your camera.

Do not be late for this spot, or for that matter, any spot in Death Valley. Morning light is very fleeting.

Pre-Dawn Image 

In the above image, you can see the light coming up to the SouthEast (Winter). The contrast was intense. I blended two images together in Photoshop.

The advantage of staying high (at the top of the photography area) is that you can shoot in several directions. It may be better to be a bit lower for Manly Beacon but this shot vanishes.

Those interested in my equipment and recommendations can find it here: Mish’s Equipment List.

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Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Iceland in 16 Days: Day 16, Reykjavik Sun Voyager Statue

This was our final day in Iceland. We were out past midnight at the Brúarfoss Waterfall on the Golden Circle, the day before our 10:30AM flight back to the US.

On the way back to the hotel, we passed the Sun Voyager statue. When we passed the statue, the sky was gray, but there were interesting clouds. There was also a hole on the horizon. This was a perfect setup.

No better conditions exist than a break in the clouds on the horizon, with lots of clouds above. There was no guarantee the sun would hit a hole on the horizon. The clouds may have dissipated, moved, or completely blocked up.

As tired as I was, and despite a morning flight, I had to pull over and wait. The wait was worth it.

Feature Image Details:Canon 16-35MM F4 L Lens at 20MM, F/11, ISO 100 for 1/5 second

I took other angles but liked the angle of the sun reflecting off the Sun Voyager statue the best. Here is a Sun Voyager slideshow. Click on any image to play.

Notice the break in the clouds on the horizon. The sky was gray but I noticed the break and pulled over hoping the break would last and it did. After finishing these shots, it was 3:30 AM, and we had a 10:30 AM flight.

Off to bed? Perish the thought. There’s still time left.

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Next Up: Reykavik Harpa Concert Hall Sunrise

Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Iceland in 16 Days: Day 11, Westfjords, Ísafjörður Sunrise

I took the feature image right from the parking lot at the Hotel Edda in Ísafjörður at about 3:30AM, shortly after sunrise.

I was extremely tired but there was no way I could pass up a shot like this.

Image Details: Canon 24-105MM F4 L Lens at 28MM, F/10, 1/15th second at ISO 100

The only key to this image was to be up at 3:30 AM instead of being in bed.

It was a long winding travel in the Westfjords to get to this location. We would only get a few hours sleep before having to move on.

Also see …

  1. Iceland in 16 Days: Day 10, Westfjords, Kelp on Rocky Shore Near Ísafjörður
  2. Iceland in 16 Days: Day 10, Westfjords, Hólmavík

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Next Up: Puffins at the Látrabjarg Bird Cliffs in Breiðavík.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock