Star Trails. The North Woods. Spider Lake, Iron River.

November 09, 2018  •  Leave a Comment


Not long ago a friend mentioned to me how it's funny the way winter makes you need things that the summer had you forgetting.

I'm always touting the bullshit line that everything happens for a reason. It's one of my mantras. Some people don't like it but it helps me to process things.


As we lie there looking up at the sky, one familiar to you. 

One shockingly beautiful to me. 

I see Cassiopeia in all of her glory. I wasn't looking for her, I didn't even know she'd be there. 

How serendipitous to be gazing up at the most gorgeous narcissist the sky has ever know.

Did I fall asleep and wake up in a John Cusack movie.  

Already bewitched by Polaris and all her fixed dominance as every other star dances around her each time I defy time with my camera. 

We pass the bottle of My Faire Lady back and forth.

And I wonder why am I here? On this dock under Cassiopeia with you. 

What lesson or knowing is to be brought about by this moment. 

Is it only in the stars, or the dead deer carcass frozen and floating majestically only a few feet away.


Astronomy, Astrology, Science, Meteorology, Biology colliding with my philosophies of Astro Physics and Manifestation.

Black Matter, Emptiness, Nothingness the only birth place of all possibility. 

Lost in Space. 


Spider Lake, Iron River, Wisconsin...

Whoa, my first North Woods experience...




Well, needless to say it was magic. 


It all started as a last minute artists retreat for four Roller derby pals. Before accepting the invitation I did some research on the location. It hadn't been all that long since I returned from the Pacific Northwest and was feeling a tinge of guilt at taking advantage of so many opportunities when I should be buckling down and working on innovation. After googling multiple things about Iron River one of which being it's extremely low light pollution my interests were peaked. The real excitement came when I stumbled upon an awesome star trials shot taken in Iron River, WI. It was different than most of the star trials photos I had seen. So I did a bit more research. I learned that the way the earth sits on it's axis from Iron Rivers location you are basically pointing directly at Polaris the North Star. That meaning if you focus your lens on Polaris and do a star trail she will remain and all the other stars will circle around her. It's recommended to rely on multiple exposures for the most optimum outcome. I however love to do my artistic stuff the old fashioned way. The photography that puts food in my mouth and makes this play possible is all about the most cutting edge technology and how to deliver as much, as fast as possible so in my art I like to live on the opposite side of that spectrum. I stayed out there for hours, extended exposure after extended exposure, having to occasionally come in and let my toes and fingers defrost. I saw so many shooting stars. The brilliance of the sky was totally distracting until the burn of the numbness took hold. What a blessing. It was an amazing experience for a sky lover like me.

I highly recommend Iron River. 


Shooting Info and Recommendations

You will need a tripod and a remote timer of some sort in most cases, some cameras have these features built in. 

I recommend a wide angle lenses. I used a 15mm fisheye in some of my images and a 28 mm in the one above and some others. The Fisheye offered a bit more context and was cool in regards to recognizing it was the sky. The 28mm made everything more pronounced and lengthened the trails which I liked.  

I had the most success with 20-40 minute exposures with an average aperture of F4, and ranging ISO's from 200-1600.

I had the most success over exposing and then bringing the exposure back down in Lightroom in post. Give yourself lots of time and plan for multiple tries as every situation is going to be different. I hope you find it as fun and magical as I do. 

Photo below taken with the 15mm fisheye.


We left Chicago Friday morning around 10:30am, took the long way and stopped at every other daunting sign exclaiming things like FREE WINE! On our Lunch stop I had one of the best Bloody Mary's in my life. Seriously this place deserves a shout out. 

Sobelman's of Richfield. If you ever find yourself hungry or thirsty for a meal near 1827 State Hwy. 175 Richfield Wisconsin 53076 you should give them a visit. 

After looking it up online to find a link for this blog I discovered there are multiple locations!  I'm sure they are all great! Check em out!


Hours later our legs were growing restless and we were lured off the highway by large signs promising free wine. Before we knew it we were parking. There was a twilight zone feel in the atmosphere. At first it looked like a cute town of store fronts but we soon realized it was a bunch of iron sheds with store front facades attached. As we joyfully hopped out of the car and entered the space hopefully locating the free wine our spirits caught a chill. There was an immediate sense of irritation among the very cranky proprietors. We sped through the un-pleasurable experience and stopped in the next store. Where we mentioned the unwelcoming feeling next door, thats when I had the feeling all of these people were related. Then we entered the third shop where I inquired about the possible relation as she recommended the free wine. Confirmation received. What else to do at that strange moment than spin into a "Sweetest Thing" type movie montage. 

2018-11-02_15-43-14_1822018-11-02_15-43-14_182 We arrived at the cabin late, darkness. The sky was covered in clouds. I decided to head to bed early and get some rest in hopes for a clear morning.  When I awoke around 5:30 am I stepped outside and looked up. The sky was crystal clear. A chill of excitement shot through my fingertips and my face as I smiled in amazement. There was a bright crescent moon. You could actually see the entire moon, the unlit parts. I had never seen that before. WOW. After a few moments of stupor I tried to collect myself and my photography equipment to get out there and catch it before it was gone and prep for a possible sunrise or at least a dawn light time-lapse. I definitely recommend getting one of the free sky apps so you can research what to point your lens and can enjoy knowing what you are seeing and also where the sun and moon are going to rise. There is always great power in pre planning your shots!


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When we got down to the dock it was mostly dark. You could see a few things in the slim light of the bright crescent moons glitter. My friend looked into the water at something that appeared to be white floating in the water. My immediate response was dismissal and mumbled how its probably just a plastic bag. The home town northwoods girl in her laughed at my city ignorance and said "there aren't plastic bags in the water out here" as she continued nodding. I joked saying maybe it's a dead body. As dawn turned into day and the sky started to illuminate the water we realized it was a dead body. A frozen, beautifully tragic, perfectly preserved deer. She looked like a double exposure found in an old film box in some estate sale. The mirror like reflection of the trees and the sky on the perfectly still water made it all look like a beautiful illusion. A moment frozen in time not water. 




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We checked out some of the local art offerings. 


Then like most scenarios I get distracted by the ancient details. The desire to preserve the already gone. 


Then to get the real feel of November and accept the cycle of life some cemetery photography in my first snow of the year. 


You can book the awesome accommodations I was lucky to experience yourself on Airbnb. 

Spacious Cabin on Spider Lake

The steam shower alone was worth the trip. Clean, comfortable and very spacious beautiful log cabin made of extra large old growth pine and cedar. Fire place.

Thanks for reading! 






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