Hanover Harvest Festival
Today the Twin Cities Photography Group was invited to photograph the Hanover Harvest Festival. Some of us got up early and caught the whole 5K race that started the celebrations, but being a Saturday I decided the earliest I could bring myself to wake up was my normal week-day hour, 7. Since I missed the 5K I went directly to park near the city hall, which was the area with the most activities anyway. I wandered around the flea market until I identified the Information tent - Scott, the meetup organizer, arranged with the festival organizers to get press passes for us. The envelope contained the laminated badge, a map and a meal ticket which was a nice touch.
As I did not see anybody else from the meet-up, I tried to get some shots of the flea market. There was a up slope from the city hall but the area had some trees that were obscuring the tents. I took some close-up shots of the three tractors in the "Tractor Exhibit" and then I saw that Diane arrived and after she got her badge, we proceeded to go towards downtown to meet the other members of the group. On our way we passed the "Classic Car" show parking lot - there were the usual Chevys and Plymouths, and then by the "Duck Drop" tent.
We settled in front of the "River Inn" to wait for the parade. And wait we did making small chat for an hour. Andy arrived as well, thinking that he found the best place to shoot the parade, only to find us all huddled at the bend 8^).
Finally the parade has started - and we spread out, taking the shots of the floats loaded with visiting princesses from the nearby towns, interspersed with vehicles advertising local businesses from which candy was tossed into the welcoming arms of the little kids. After the parade, we regrouped and decided to seek a bit of shade and some refreshments - "River Inn" was just across the street so it was an obvious choice. They had some nice wraps and cold beer, and life was good again.
Obviously the place was packed and the lunch ran longer than we planned, so we missed the "Duck Drop". Diane was disappointed as she entered three ducks into the competition, but when we came out" the organizers told us that the sheriff said the "North Crow River" was flowing too fast and it would be too dangerous to fish all the ducks out of the it, so the drop was moved to a kiddie pool by the side of the street. So no big loss there...
As the clouds moved in, threatening with a good soaker, we walked back to the city hall to check out the rest of the events. The rest of the parking lot was now bustling with kite-making, face-painting, funky hair painting for kids.
Near the petting zoo that comprised a horse, a pony and two chickens I caught what I feel was my best shot of the day: some kids training with lassos:
We waited some more for the beauty contest coronation, then we met with the mayor and we dumped all the jpegs from the parade so they can present a slide-show after the pork chop dinner and we took off.
In conclusion, not too much excitement or great shot opportunities, but a pleasant day, outside, in good company. Will come again, next year...
Red, White and Boom!
In the previous years I went to the St. Paul for the 4th of July fireworks. This year I decided to go to Minneapolis. Based on previous experience, I was hoping that arriving half an hour before the show at the Stone Arch bridge would be adequate, but that proved to be false - as I exited 35W I saw many groups walking towards Hennepin Ave and Stone Arch bridges. I drove by, but the parking lots were full, there was no available on-street parking and people were still driving slowly looking for a spot. I quickly switched to plan B and drove to the UofM campus which was busy, but I could find a parking spot then walked over to the Northern Pacific Railroad bridge which was moderately busy with people and set-up my tripod.
The moon was hanging nicely over Minneapolis:
Unfortunately when the fireworks started, I realized why the area was not as busy - the smoke-stacks of the Southwest Steamplant were partially blocking the view.
I managed to get a few decent shots, but next year I'll be parking near the Stone Arch bridge at 7 PM!
Strawberries and Stalactites
Before we went to Chicago, we talked to some friends about going to pick strawberries from a farm - C. found a site that listed quite a few pick-your-own farms selling berries and apples and we were looking forward to getting some fresh strawberries, ripened on the vine. We called around, but a few farms were already out or did not have a good crop this year - and some farms were too far, more than two hours away.
On our way to Chicago last week (I know, I need to post some shots of the Windy city but there are too many of them, and it's hard to pick a few good ones) we noticed a banner on the side of the road advertising Crystal Cave as "the longest cave in Wisconsin" not too far after we crossed St. Croix - and we thought we should visit it, since it is so close.
So as we were dialing out farms, I thought about searching berry farms that are near the cave, so we can hit two spots in a single drive - a few clicks on Google Maps found the one: Afton Apple Orchard.
We left early in the morning, as yesterday we got a scorching 97 ° F that forced the farm to close at noon since they needed to water the plants so they don't wilt while still full of fruit. The farm was very well organized: plenty of signs showing which way to the berry patch, plus a couple of guys welcoming you and sorting out the parking and distributing the cardboard 'collecting' boxes. A girl was assigning row sections to groups.
In 45 minutes we picked enough berries and took out the cameras - it is hard to photograph the field as the plants are small and the berries are well hidden, but I managed to find a few flowers still..
We paid for the berries then shifted them into ziplocs and placed them gingerly in a "hot-cold" bag that contained 5 pounds of ice, and we left for the cave.
The gift shop that sits on top of the cave has many varieties of fudge. I have tried two pieces, the walnut-chocolate and the coconut-chocolate - they were good, but extremely sweet. I felt that I needed some energy to spend one hour at 45 ° F . I found it annoying that camera bags were prohibited from the cave, but given the tight quarters it was to be somewhat expected. I had my special photography shorts with me, whose side pockets can house the 24-70L (without hood) so I had the 24-70 on the camera, the 100L macro in one pocked and the 580 mkII flash in the other. That kept me suitably grounded, even on slippery cave floor. It was my first time in a cave so I didn't know what to expect in terms of lighting. I knew I didn't want the flash on camera and the Canon extension cord is quite tight and it pulls the flash - so I took the Cactus V5 wireless triggers, even though that meant the loss of E-TTL and semi-constant fidgeting with the power ratio.
Lighting was difficult, and the group moved briskly from one room to another - they really keep the cave busy all day long. I got a few shots of my companions and quite a number of boring shots of rocks that work well as abstract or dirt backgrounds but do not give the depth of feeling of 'being there', plus a lot of shots were spoiled by the cabling they installed to lit up the cave: They need to hide that cabling better. I definitely would like to go into a cave again and try to lit up those rocks and nooks and crannies. Luckily, at the entrance of the gift shop they had a brochure with other public-access caves in the 50 states which included a couple in Minnesota - so I will go and practice some more this summer. Maybe even suggest a meet-up!
Last night Como Observatory had an "Artist and Photographers Event" where they allow use of tripods after the normal visiting hours.
I captured some of the exquisite roses and lilies in the "Sunken Garden", but then I wandered about and found the bonsai room was open - and empty! That was a treat, and I like to share the treats...
This weekend Minnesota Street Rod Association holds its annual "Back to the fifties" event. Hundreds of classic American cars congregate in St. Paul at the Minnesota State Fair grounds or cruise along Snelling and University avenues. I love watching those big cars, built in the era we soared to the Moon - most look like spaceships, either very round or sharply angular - but supremely elegant and stately.
The hotel where the guests meet and spend the weekend is a mile down the road from the office so yesterday at lunch I grabbed the camera and swung by the parking lot.
Last night we ventured to shoot the Full Moon over Minneapolis. It rained all day and by early afternoon it stopped, but the clouds were still hanging over the city, only to scatter in the evening. I went ahead and scouted a couple of locations, but wasn't really happy with the view of the city lines.
We parked downtown and moved about on foot. The moon wasn't too high in the sky, so I only managed to take a shot as she was lingering above the Minneapolis City Hall.
Don't these shrubs seem like giant green cupcakes?
This angle looked almost like a painting, and I had to have a shot:
St. Paul Cathedral, revisited
Tonight I ventured with some friends at night in St. Paul . The evening started as a meetup to shoot the St. Paul cathedral at night, but we started way to early and from too much of a distance. We milled about the Mounds Park, then we took a break for refreshments and we started shooting when the sun finally set.
After the cathedral, with the last energy reserves we went downtown St. Paul, to shoot the Ordway and Rice Park. The statue in the middle of the water fountain provided some challenges - the environment was lit acceptably, but the statue was in complete darkness. I had the flashes with me, but I could not position them close enough - so I resorted to a trick: the camera was positioned on the tripod, with the aperture at 9.0 and 10 seconds exposure time. I started the exposure with the cable release, then went in a quarter circle around the fountain, shooting the flash by pressing the test button - 5 full flashes, equally spaced. The result is pretty neat.