Frozen Beach

Even after the thaw we had last week, the shelf ice on Lake Michigan remains. In places it's almost 20 feet tall where the waves piled up the chunks of flow ice. From this perspective, it appears the beach continues for a few hundred feet toward the lighthouse, but in fact, I'm standing at the shore, everything you see is ice. The waves and wind have deposited sand on top of the shelf ice, making it look like an extension of the beach. While the ice may be several feet thick in places, it's likely there are areas less than an inch thick, making it deadly to walk upon.

Here's the same area only a few months before:
Soon it Will Be Frozen

St. Joseph, Michigan

Evening at the Dunes

Following a long walk around the icy beach, and a very slippery climb up these dunes (in thigh-deep snow) we were treated to a bit of sun. Lake Michigan was frozen almost as far as you could see, and the warm sunlight bathed the ice as it set far off to our left.

Sand Covered Snow

Winds are beginning to cover the snow with sand from the ever moving sand dunes at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

Morning Frost

Early morning fog and cold temperatures created some excellent hoar frost on Sunday. At just the right time, the skies cleared and the sun came out- just long enough for me to capture these images.

Here's a close up of some branches. I'm still amazed at how the 1/8th inch long crystals form almost perpendicular to the stem of the plant and stick out like thorns.
Frosty Morning

Glazed in Ice

A thick layer of ice glazes the supports for the catwalk leading to the St. Joseph, Michigan lighthouse.

It's amazing how the spray from Lake Michigan can reach so far up the catwalk. The wind creates some great patterns in the ice as well.

Sunny Winter Day Along Lake Michigan

Weeks of cold weather and the recent lake effect snow storm created a beautiful winter landscape out of Lake Michigan. The great lake was frozen as far as the eye could see.

Snow Drifts

Following a few days of constant lake effect snow, Porter and LaPorte Counties had their share of snow drifts - especially along the lake front. This drift was taller than the van on the road! The plows kept it off the street, but high winds were inching it closer and closer to the traffic.

Clinging Ice

About an hour before sunset, the clouds allowed a bit of blue sky and sunshine to reach the ground. The low angle of the sun offered perfect lighting of the outer range light of the St. Joseph, Michigan lighthouses.

High winds and single digit temperatures covered the windward side of the lighthouse with ice. The ice on the catwalk appears to bend in the wind like Spanish Moss hanging from a Live Oak tree. The ice formed while the winds blew, causing the icicles to form interesting angles pointing away from the wind.

Gelid Close Up

Gelid Close Up
Gelid Close Up

Following a slippery and hazardous walk on the fenced in portion of the pier in St. Joseph, Michigan, we were able to safely walk out past the inner lighthouse to reach the outer lighthouse. The wind and water had splashed up onto the 35 foot tall lighthouse and completely covered it in a thick layer of ice.

The patterns formed by the high winds are very interesting, giving the lighthouse the appearance of a hairy monster.

Chris couldn't resist getting up close to capture some great images.

Glowing Ice

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Glowing Ice
Glowing Ice

Wind, cold temperatures and Lake Michigan combine to make interesting ice sculptures. These two inch diameter railings on the St. Joseph, Michigan breakwater are being covered with ice over a foot thick. A few more windy days and the railings will be covered in ice up to three feet thick.

Here, the ice glistened as it captured the setting sun. The surface of the pier was also covered in several inches of smooth ice, making the walk to the inner lighthouse very difficult.

Looking "UP"

Icing "UP"
On Tuesday afternoon, Chris and I decided to explore the outer range light in St. Joseph, Michigan. After a slow, slippery walk from shore to the end of the railings on the pier, we noticed it may be possible to venture further. If it weren't for the ice covered railings, I would not have even set foot onto the pier.

Once past the railings, the pier heads out a few hundred more feet, and this area was mostly clear of ice, and seemed safe enough to walk on. We were able to walk out to the inner light with no problems, but had to cautiously walk around the inner light to get to the last couple of hundred feet of pier to see the iced outer light.

Lake Michigan never fails to impress, as the outer side of the outer range light was covered in thick ice. The wind shapes the ice into intricate patterns, and these seemed to be like curls of hair on a giant monster. Click on the image and go to flickr to view the largest available image to see what I mean.

Winter has only just begun - I'm optimistic we'll have some more icing yet to come!

December Rose

December Rose
December Rose

Aside from making travel difficult, the ice storm on Christmas Eve created some beautiful sights outdoors.
Our Knockout roses bloomed until mid December. The remaining blossoms withered and then were covered in ice.

Our crabapple trees were also made into ice covered sculptures.
Frozen Crabapple

Caroling In Downtown Chicago

Helping the Bell Ringer at Daley Plaza
Helping the Bell Ringer at Daley Plaza

My old friend Jim called up and invited the family along for an interesting tour of Chicago. His friend owns and operates O'Leary's Firetruck tours, a company offering tours of Chicago aboard vintage firetrucks. They wanted to get a group together to travel around the loop and sing Christmas Carols at some Salvation Army kettle locations.
Boarding the Fire Truck

We pulled out around 11:00 am on a cold, snowy December 23rd, and headed first toward Engine 13's firehouse. Driving a vintage firetruck really attracts a lot of attention, but singing carols while driving really turns people's heads. There we sang carols to the firemen - most of whom knew and/or at one time worked with the owner of the tour company.
Caroling at Engine Company 13

Our next stop was Daley Plaza, the location of the official Chicago Christmas tree. We sang at two locations there, on the southwest and southeast corners of the plaza. We attracted lots of attention and photographers as a large number of donations were dropped into the Salvation Army's kettle. Even the bell ringer joined in and sang.
Carols at Daley Plaza

Group Photo
After about an hour of caroling, we boarded the 1949 Mack Firetruck and headed off to sing by the Marshall Field building on State Street. The Salvation Army had two musicians there, and they were happy to accompany us as we sang about six carols.
Singing by the Marshall Field Building
Despite the cold, It was really a great time. I certainly hope we helped bring a little cheer to some people this year, either by helping to raise a few extra donations, or just by seeing us driving around in the old truck.

First Day of Winter and Ice Covered Already

First Day of Winter and Ice Covered Already
First Day of Winter and Ice Covered Already

Recent high winds churned up Lake Michigan and splashed up onto the 35 foot tall outer range light in St. Joseph, Michigan. It's pretty early for this much ice (there was more, but it has melted some).

The pier was pretty icy in places, but not bad enough to cause me to slide into the lake. The worst part was the end of the pier (seen here in the foreground); I didn't want to venture too much further - another three feet and I'd be in Lake Michigan.

Repairs have begun on this lighthouse. It was leaning due to a crumbling foundation and the interior structure was pretty rotten. It's a good thing they're saving it. The way it was leaning last year, this much ice may have caused it to topple over like the small beacon on the other side of the harbor.

Here's what the lighthouse looks like without ice:
St. Joseph Michigan Lighthouse

Illuminating the Night

Illuminating the Night
Illuminating the Night

While visiting the Washington Park Festival of Lights in Michigan City, we walked over to the lake shore and headed out to the lighthouse. There was a bit of ice around the pier, so we decided to stay on shore.

6 second exposure.

Winter Wetland

Winter Wetland
Winter Wetland

The cold weather has settled in on the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The wetlands are beginning to freeze over and lock everything in place until Spring.

Ice Along Kintzele Ditch

Ice Along Kintzele Ditch
Ice Along Kintzele Ditch

I think I enjoy the beach and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore even more in the winter. While I don't like cold weather, I tend not to think about it when I'm immersed in it taking photographs.

Kintzele Ditch runs between two dunes, and it's mouth often changes course due to the high waves and currents of Lake Michigan. It's interesting to see it change from week to week.

Changes along the rest of the creek are most dramatic in the winter. Here, ice has formed along the edges of the creek, but as the water levels dropped, the ice lost support and came to a rest with a crash.

Soon, this stream will be frozen across - accept for a small portion where it drains into frozen Lake Michigan.

Painted Water

Painted Water
Painted Water

On my way home from work on Monday, I stopped by the Illinois and Michigan Canal for a few minutes. Just east of Lemont is a feeder stream that cascades into the canal. It's a great little place to stop and rest and take in the scenery. Not much to see at ground level, but if you climb down into the canal (you can do it if you're careful) it's a different world, and you quickly forget about the industry surrounding you - and you can't see or hear it!

I and M Silhouette
Once at water level, you can get a view of the canal from a boatman's vantage point. The waterfall above is located just to the left and off the picture in the second image.

Of course, I forgot my tripod, but I was still able to blur the water hand-held without blurring the static objects. This is one of my favorite places along the entire canal.

Stopped Cold

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Cascading Ice

Ground water can often be seen seeping out of the lower parts of sand dunes eroded by Lake Michigan or small streams. Here, along the shore of Lake Michigan, the waves have caused the dunes to collapse somewhat, and exposed layers of sand and mud. Water cannot percolate through the mud and clay, so it seeps out toward the lake.

During cold periods, the seepage freezes into beautiful ice walls such as these.

Stopped Cold

I think beaches are more fun in winter months: No crowds, no dogs, no bugs!

And yes, we found fossil crinoids! These hasn't been a day when we visited the beach and not found a crinoid fossil.

Photo Published in "Capture My Chicago" Photo Book

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Limestone Waterfall

CBS in Chicago developed a project where photographers submitted photos of the Chicagoland area for voting and possible publication in a book. Users uploaded photos to the Capture my Chicago website, and the public had a few months to vote on the photos. The best photos were to be published in a coffee table photo book.

Over 2,800 photographers submitted over 28,000 images. The public voted and the top 200 or so photos were published in a book entitled "Capture My Chicago."

One of my photos was included in the book - Limestone Waterfall. This photo was taken just east of Lemont, IL, a suburb of Chicago. A small stream cascades into the man-made Illinois and Michigan Canal, a waterway cut by hand in the mid 1800's linking the Illinois River with Lake Michigan.

This canal ultimately linked the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River, making Chicago what it is today. Without the Illinois and Michigan Canal, there would have been no easy way to transport goods and supplies to the area. After the completion of the canal, the railroads (which paralleled the canal) took over and eventually made Chicago the hub for the railroad industry.

The book is available in Chicago Barnes and Noble and Borders bookstores.