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Crow Wing County (as well as the entire central portion of Minnesota) is a region defined by lakes. The state's "10,000 Lakes" license plate motto may at first glance seem an exaggeration conjured up by the tourism department but in fact, the number is a bit low. Officially, there are nearly 12,000 lakes in the astonishing quantity and one that has led to numerous lakes with the same name. There are seven Lake Augustas, seven Bass Lakes, and just as many Birch Lakes, to name a few. The landscape is absolutely peppered with lakes and last week, we had the chance to visit a particularly beautiful one. Tucked behind the convex southeastern shoreline of Pelican Lake (the Crow Wing County Pelican Lake to be more specific, as there are five other Pelican Lakes in Minnesota) lies Lougee Lake, a 217 acre, sand-bottomed water body that is just shy of 60 feet deep. While I was tempted to explore beneath the waterline with my camera, my shooting time would be limited and our late August visit and southern view from the Studebaker house were perfect for what would likely be my last good shot at a Milky Way time lapse piece for the year. All I needed was a clear sky. Unfortunately it stormed for the first two days of our visit and didn't let up until Wednesday evening, obscuring any view of the stars but giving me the chance to shoot a sequence of the storm clouds as they sped southwest.

Thursday morning we awoke to a cloudless sky which the meteorologists predicted would stick around for another couple of days. The morning was cool but that didn't stop Luc from donning his coat and exploring the beach and nearby woods. As the day warmed, there was volleyball, boating, fishing, swimming and what can only be described (by me anyway) as death-defying acrobatics on the trampoline by the kids, who expertly manned my GoPro and got some great point-of-view video footage that would have surely landed me in the hospital if I'd attempted it myself.

With the sun falling behind the trees to the west and the loons calling out from the lake, a campfire was built for a fish boil. It was shaping up to be the perfect northwoods evening but my mind was elsewhere: In about three hours the Milky Way would be shifting across the southern horizon and I really wanted to capture it. Finally, the sky darkened and I once again found myself on a beach with my camera hoping I'd get it right. The crescent moon was following the sun below the western horizon and the stars began making their appearance. I opened up my 24mm lens to F/1.4 and began shooting at 25 second intervals, adjusting the shutter speed as it got darker. By 11:30, I had nothing more to do but wait. I had a drink by the fire with Jon then called it a night. I went inside to get some sleep, my camera still firing away into the night.

The night sky is a busy place when viewed on a time lapse piece: shooting stars, planes, and clouds that you otherwise wouldn't notice suddenly crowd the scene. And the Milky Way of course, which didn't disappoint, smearing its way across the southern sky before exiting my frame, stage-left. Processing the piece was a bit tricky...with the camera set so sensitive to light, even the subtle glow of the houses on the other side of the lake lit the night sky. The clouds, which seem to follow me wherever I go to to shoot star scenes, did in fact show up, but not until the Milky Way had taken a bow. The sequence is comprised of 715 individual images processed in Adobe Light Room, Light Room Time Lapse, and Photoshop.

A very warm thanks to the Studebakers for opening their house to us last week and to everyone else for making the stay so enjoyable. A special thanks to the kids, all of whom acted well beyond their ages in taking such great care of Luc, even when there were more exciting things to do than color with a three year old. Lougee Lake 2016 is already on my mind...and maybe some underwater photography. I've been home only two days and I miss it already.