Lake Itasca at the headwaters of the Mississippi River.
A few days ago, my wife, Lynn, and I went to Park Rapids to visit some friends. We planned a drive through Itasca State Park to see the headwaters of the Mississippi River in the morning, and in the afternoon, we would head out onto Fishhook Lake and Fishhook River. The day turned out to be gorgeous. It was to be a great day for taking pictures.
Lynn and I are standing at the beginnings of the mighty Mississippi River. From here, it will flow over 2500 miles to the gulf coast. Photo by Lowell Wolff.
Itasca State Park consists of over 100 lakes and 32,000 acres. Cabins and rooms are available for longer term stays, and I found from a brochure that the cost to stay there is quite reasonable. Lynn and I expect to come back later this year when nature puts on her fall colors.
A dock and boat are surrounded by lily pads and reeds.
After a great lunch at a local Park Rapids restaurant, we took an excursion on my friend’s pontoon boat. We travelled along the Fishhook River until it merged with Fishhook Lake.
The lake and river are home to a large variety of wild life, the most prolific of which appear to be the Minnesota State Bird, the Common Loon. The loon has interesting red eyes and a beautiful call. We floated by several families of loon, and I took many photos of the families. The babies are really adolescents, since it is mid-summer.
My first look at these photos on the computer left me a bit disappointed. Their beautiful red eyes were lost in a sea of black from their beak to their neck. The camera’s metering system exposed the images based on the bright water and sky. Having the raw files available as well as the JPEGs turned out to be very helpful. Using Photoshop Elements, I opened the original Nikon NEF files, but before I imported them into Elements for editing, I set the exposure to +1. Once in Elements, I used “Shadows/Highlights…” to brighten the shadows a bit more, and bring the highlights back down to a more balanced exposure setting. This combination allowed me to bring out the dark red eyes in the adult loon without blowing out the highlights on the bright surface of the water.
Herewith, I submit a Gallery of Loon Photos for your approval.
A mother and her baby warily watch our approach.
This mother loon has two young ones to watch over.
I caught one of the young ones in a moment of play.
This family didn’t want anything to do with us humans in the pontoon boat. The closer we got, the more they swam away from us.
As they headed away from us, the male loon put his leg into the air. As near as I can tell, he was flippin’ us “the bird”.