Believe it or not, I have some new pictures to share. Between landscaping and training Cricket in the sport of agility, I just haven’t had any opportunity this year to pursue photography. But I took a couple of days this week to head up to north central Minnesota, and with the dog staying behind, I had a chance to do some shooting.
Unfortunately, the leaves haven’t really started turning up there. So I didn’t get the shots I thought I was going for. The week before I left, however, I discovered the existence of Big Bog State Recreation Area. So I decided to swing up that way, and that made the trip worth it.
There are two parts to Big Bog. The southern unit has the visitor center, and a fire tower you can climb. The tower overlooks Red Lake, but I was there to see the bog. So after buying my annual Minnesota State Park permit, I drove another 9 miles to the north unit. That’s where you’ll find the boardwalk into the bog.
To get to the boardwalk, you have to take a trail around a small lake. Here’s a view looking back at the information kiosk and dock:
Bogs are nutrient poor, so there’s not a lot of plant diversity there. I only saw a couple of these mushrooms, or I would have found one that didn’t have twigs running in front of it, but the bright red made it look kind of magical:
What drew me here, though, was the promise of seeing pitcher plants:
Pitcher plants deal with the limited availability of nutrients by preying on insects. See that dead bug floating in the water? That’s lunch. Not mine, fortunately. I packed in some trail mix to nibble on, and there was a peanut butter and honey sandwich waiting for me back at the car.
Take a close look at the inside of the plant, and you can see tiny white hairs lining the pitcher. These hairs point downward, making it easy for the insect to go in, but blocking their way if they try to climb back up.
In addition to carnivorous plants, there are a lot of tamarac and black spruce in the bog. This is a tamarac. Unlike other fir trees, tamarac needles turn yellow and drop in the fall. Kind of weird in a bog, because one of the interpretive signs mentioned that a lot of the plants there do not drop their leaves–an adaptation that preserves nutrients. But some of us dare to be different, and I guess that’s true of tamarac:
I have to give big thumbs up to this recreation area. The boardwalk is wonderful. It takes you a mile into the bog, allowing you to see a place you can’t walk into. Partly because you’d sink down into it. Partly because it would take years for your footprints to disappear, so this is one case where “leaving nothing but footprints” would ruin the experience for everyone else.
Anyway, there are ample benches along the way if you need to rest, and plenty of interpretive signs with fascinating information about the area and the plants you’re looking at.
See this opening, with trees lined up on either side? One hundred years ago, or so, they tried to drain the bog and turn it into farmland. So they dug trenches, and this is one of them. They failed to turn the bog into tillable land, and the farmers who had been encouraged to move here to farm the land couldn’t make it and left. Nature defeated human beings, but in the process, we left scars. One hundred years and the bog hasn’t fully recovered. Yup, I stayed on the boardwalk and didn’t leave even a single footprint out there:
The black spruce smelled wonderful. I had the entire place to myself for the three hours I spent there. Very peaceful, and worth the drive.
Back at the lake, I decided to take some shots to work on my handling of clouds. The challenging thing with a shot like this is that the sky is so much brighter than the ground, so it’s not possible for one exposure to do both justice. I have a filter that is dark on one half, and that’s supposed to compensate, but it’s never enough. So I finally did what I should have done all along…started learning how to make the compensations in Photoshop.
No doubt there are far more sophisticated techniques than what I used, but this is a good start, and you can find the instructions here.
My very last shot from the trip, and this one was just perfect straight out of the camera, save for cropping it to 5×7, and then reducing the size for this blog. I had seen a flock of turkeys on my way up here, so seeing cranberries on my way out got me looking forward to Thanksgiving: