Pine Blur by Jim Brandenburg

In four weeks I'm heading off to the great North Woods of Minnesota for a canoe and photography trip with my good friend J Randall Updegrove. This will be my third visit to Boundary Waters Wilderness area, a spectacular place to visit and get away from it all. The last two times I was there, it was primarily a canoe and portage trip. Very rugged conditions and pushing for travel distance every day. We did circular routes, staying at a new campsite each night. Some of those campsites were the best I have ever experienced, and some were less than enjoyable. The photo at right is the site that will always be known as Camp Desolation. Conditions were so bad that day that we were literally blown onto a rocky island point, with no way to proceed any further on big bad Brule Lake. We hunkered down and prayed for the rain and wind to die down so we could move on the next day.

This year is primarily a photographic trip. We will stay at one camp site the entire week and then do day trips with only our cameras in order to capture some of the incredible October beauty of northern Minnesota. We will probably have 8 or 9 cameras between on on this year's trip, including a Calumet 4X5, a Hasselblad, a Rollei, 2 Canon 5D's, some sort of mystery set up that Randall just got, and the Linhof Technica shown at left. I'll also be bringing along a few old Polaroid cameras and my Olympus OM1, to be used primarily for the 3000 miles of road trip photography I will encounter on my round trip between Philadelphia and Ely, Minnesota. (Randall does his own 3000 mile round trip from his home base in Missoula, Montana)

The unquestioned king of North Woods photography is Jim Brandenburg. He has spent years photographing the entire area in all seasons. He also has specialized in photographing the Wolves and their remarkable return from near extinction. At right is one of Brandenburg's images from his Wolves series, and at the top of this post is his image Pine Blur from his North Woods series. Most of Brandenburg's work is very nature oriented, National Geographic style photography, which isn't really my thing. I'm more intrigued by work like Pine Blur, which is not typical of Brandenburg's usual style, and is exactly the type of nature images I do like. His entire body of work is certainly gorgeous though, and captures every element of the North Woods.

Speaking of Wolves... the last time we were there, both of our dogs got caught in Wolf traps on the final day. These were traps set just along the portage trail to catch wolves for tagging and release, so the traps had rubber jaws and did no harm to the dogs.But my dog literally freaked out as soon as he got caught, and since he was out of sight at the time I thought he was being attacked or something worse. When I reached him I made the mistake of reaching straight for the jaws, and my beloved best friend bit me hard on the back of my left hand. With no way to properly clean the wound or get medical attention, I spent the rest of the day and 1500 miles driving back to Philly with a very swollen and painful hand. The only plus side to the story is that after I had loaded my canoe and was driving out of the lake area to head for home, I saw two wolves running along side of the road. I kind of think they were thanking us for setting off those traps!

Trees in Water, C H Paquette (2008)
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