A Night at the Ice Castles

In Minnesota, it feels like winter for about 6 months out of the year. While it does seem to be long and freezing, in winter we truly celebrate the cold. We have a Winter Carnival, ice fishing contests, snowmobile shows, outdoor hockey and the Ice Castles, to name just a few of our winter celebrations.

The Ice Castles MN are in Stillwater for their second year. Since they are close to home, it’s nice to be able to get out for an hour or two to go downtown and check them out. I’ve been down there four or five times already, and am planning to go back even more before they close (the date of which depends on the weather).

My favorite spot this year is the Sky Slide. They opened up a walkway in one of the walls which leads you to the upper level where you slide down to the lower level. The views from the top are great; where the historic Lift Bridge is usually blocked, you can see it from up here, and the tall ice walls don’t seem quite as tall as they do when you are down below, walking between them.

If you are interested in prints, visit my website!




Stillwater Ice Castles

While visiting the Ice Castles in Stillwater last week, I noticed they updated the big back wall that has rotating LED lights inside it. It shows a fire, blue wavy lines, all sorts of different patterns and colors. Then there is this one. What is it? It is the Ice Castles logo! It only comes up every so often, so when I was there I was hoping to grab a shot of it.


St. Paul Ice Castles

It’s St. Paul Winter Carnival time! I ventured downtown St. Paul to meet up with a group of photographers meeting at the James J. Hill Library for photo walk. It ended up being just a handful of photographers that showed up; but fortunately the rest of St. Paul appeared to have decided to go to the Ice Palace, too.

After briefly meeting in front of the library, Tomas Alvarez, his son and I decided to head into Rice Park. It was packed! There were multiple lines wrapping around the Ice Palace to get to the inner ring of the palace. We skirted around everyone and headed into Rice Park, ending up near the fountain area, which was surrounded by a large wood stage with carvings of ice with sponsor logos in them.

Turning to face Landmark Center, we saw that our friend Liam Flahive was carving ice on the stage! We wandered over and chatted with him. While we were hanging out with Liam, I had the chance to set up my tripod and put on the 10-stop ND filter to capture three frames, one of which is the image here.


At What Price?

I’ve been thinking. A lot. And maybe too much.
My question, I guess, is: at what price?
What would you do to get ahead of the game, in the field you are an expert in?
For example, I’m a photographer. I make part of my income by taking, selling and licensing my photography.
A lot of it is who knows you; your interaction with people and their memory of social interaction with you. If someone was looking for a photo of, say, the US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, I’ve got some. And they are good. But I’ve never been great at social interaction. When someone comments on my work that I post on my photo page, I do my best (lamely, most of the time) to reply to their comments and/or praise. Someone who is looking for a photo to hang on their wall most likely would go with someone else who they have a better rapport with, rather than with me.
But what if there was an easier way? I’ve been seeing some…odd comments on some posts by one particular person that does what I do, but has a much larger following and sells more work than me. The quality of this individuals work is, in my opinion, lower than mine. Comments that don’t really make sense in the instance that they are used.
Doing some research, it does appear that there are apps that will auto-comment on posts. With a bit more digging, I’m sure I could find one that would let you choose groups, a time of when to comment, and to pick randomly from a group of comments you’ve entered and to post a comment on new posts with specific content, like having an image attached.
So my question again is, at what price? Do you falsely represent the fan base you have by running apps like this, or even buying followers on Instagram? With photography, with a larger following on social media, I can gain the attention of multiple companies who could possibly want me to be a brand ambassador. I’ve contacted a few, and they all say that if I had a larger social media presence, they’d be more than willing to talk. But since I just broke 1,000 followers on my photo page here on Facebook, and I don’t have 10,000 followers on Instagram, they say “check back later when your social media presence is bigger”.
Back in the days of Flickr, there were groups you could be in where if you posted one, you needed to comment on two photos from other posters to boost your following and their following and to try to get into the Flickr “Explore” group (top 500 photos of the day) by gaming the algorithms by showing more interaction on a photo that may not have usually received such attention. And I really disliked these groups because the falsely inflated the following of mediocre work, all to try to game the system.
So that pulls me back to my original question. Do you do it? I don’t think I could, honestly. I don’t think I’d value the work I was putting out as much if the people liking and commenting on it were not true, real people but automated bots and applications. 
What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them.

Hot Air Balloon Launch at the Ice Cream Social

Now, one would think that being stuck in the middle of winter in Minnesota that there wouldn’t be much to photograph or do. In reality, it is the complete opposite.

Between Crashed Ice, the St. Paul Winter Carnival, Ice Castles and other events, you could be busy every weekend and not do everything that is out there to do.

Today, they had an Ice Cream Social downtown Stillwater. Now, you’d think that people wouldn’t want to eat ice cream outside in the middle of winter, but it is actually the opposite. Big crowds every year, which were even bigger this year and last year with the addition of the Ice Castles in Lowell Park.

I was looking on Facebook this morning and a friend posted that they were going to be launching hot air balloons from the south end of Lowell park at 2pm. I got my gear packed up and headed down to a park just south, but higher up than Lowell Park for a view of downtown. The balloon launch is just a week before the Hudson Hot Air Affair, an event they’ve had for many years in a row now where 20 or more hot air balloons attempt to go up at 7am on Saturday or Sunday (if conditions don’t work for Saturday) morning.

Anyways, slightly after 2pm you could see people unrolling the hot air balloon. Within 10 minutes, the balloon was inflated and it left the ground, heading north and east into Wisconsin over the St. Croix River.


Crashed Ice Weekend in St. Paul

Hard to believe that it is just past the middle of January. That means not only is the St. Paul Winter Carnival coming up along with the Ice Castles in Stillwater, but it also means that it is Red Bull Crashed Ice weekend!

I had the chance to check out the course this morning during warm ups. It looks fast and steep with some very tight corners. I watched several groups of skaters take their time and stop at a few spots on the track to check out the layout and think about their game plan for the weekend. The event is once again at the Cathedral of St. Paul, as it seems that the old Selby Hill Trolley area is a great location with a decent hill for the skaters to travel down.

This morning was the freestyle skaters warm ups. Saw some great jumps, skate grabs, 180s and airwalks. Even the goalies got into it!

The event continues tomorrow night and Saturday, with the live show starting at 7pm on both nights. The freestyle competition is tomorrow, which is what I really want to check out. The live TV broadcast is Saturday night at 8pm.

DSC_3655_6_7_Smooth 2DSC_3716_adj_1DSC_3794_adj

Ice Castles 2018

Last year at this time, I was working part-time at the Ice Castles in downtown Stillwater. After having a partially torn Achilles tendon this year, and a fatty lipoma removed from my right leg, I decided it was the best for my legs to take this season off.

That hasn’t stopped me from going down and checking it out though.

The snow stopped falling about 5pm last Friday night. Plows went by and I figured I should take a chance and run downtown Stillwater and see what has changed at the structures since I was last there the previous week. New slides, more lights. It was a great time to be there!

Fun to walk around the castle area. It seemed that the fresh snow kept a lot of people away, as it wasn’t nearly as busy as I was expecting it to be. It gave me plenty of time to wander around the area and look at different parts of the castle and see what I could get.

Definitely head down and check it out if you have the time. Wear boots, dress warm and enjoy the castles!