Today I posted the last photo in my 100 Days 100 Lakes Challenge on Instagram. It has been a wild journey. I had an incredible experience and I thought I'd share my highs and lows from the challenge in top ten form. Drum roll, please!
1) Favorite Lake
The question I get asked the most is, "Which lake is your favorite?" That's like asking me to choose my favorite child.
Two of my favorite local lakes to photograph, though, are Lake Sallie and Muskrat Lake because they are within the Dunton Locks County Park in Becker County, Minnesota. I have spent countless hours slowly walking along their shores and photographing the birds in all seasons there. It is a fun park to bring your family, too, with great fishing and many places to picnic.
Lake Sallie - Day 3
Muskrat Lake - Day 65
2) Can't wait to visit again
Lake Superior - Day 73
I visit Lake Superior and Duluth as often as possible. There is always something new to see. This summer we visited Tettegouche State Park and Grand Marais for our family vacation and we all loved it.
3) Most Fun
I had a fantastic time at Cross Lake and I would love to bring my family there to visit. They have a campground, a beautiful bay, a nice sandy beach, a dam and excellent fishing areas.
Cross Lake - Day 39
Second runner up goes to Gull Lake. The recreation area was beautiful and I really enjoyed the adults in the raft singing, "Row, Row, Row Your Boat."
Gull Lake - Day 38
4) Best Sunset
I can't choose just one of these. Here are some of my favorites from the challenge:
Little McDonald Lake - Day 62
I stopped just a few minutes to shoot this incredible sky as I raced home to beat the storm it carried. We had a lot of damage in our area from the winds and hail these clouds brought.
West Silent Lake - Day 1
I can always count on West Silent Lake for a beautiful sunset. I kicked off the challenge with this picture and it is still one of my favorites.
McGowan Lake - Day 34
This little lake next to Rush Lake was the perfect mirror for the clouds on this evening.
Lake Lizzie - Day 43
I had a plan for photographing the sunset over Lake Lizzie, but when I turned around and saw this view I immediately moved my tripod and shot this instead. I loved the heavy look of the glowing pink clouds contrasted by the grasses that framed the lake.
5) Best Wildlife
The winner of the Best Wildlife category has to go to Lewis Lake for giving me a chance to photograph this Yellow-Headed Blackbird. I had been looking for them for a couple years! The lake was also filled with other birds and waterfowl including loons and many varieties of ducks.
Lewis Lake - Day 75
I have to mention Grotto Lake, though. What an amazing place to see nesting egrets, cormorants and Black-Crowned Night-Heron. The small area is just fascinating!
Grotto Lake - Day 72
6) Most Challenging to Photograph
Honestly, nearly every lake I photographed in May was a challenge. We had overcast and gloomy skies, windy days and bad weather through most of the first days of the challenge. The day I went to Star Lake, however, was my most challenging. I think because I know just how beautiful Star Lake is that I had trouble photographing it on a less than perfect day. That was part of the challenge, though, and the poor weather conditions tested my creativity and gave me a chance to shoot lakes in a new way.
Star Lake - Day 11
7) Biggest Surprise
Unnamed Lake - Day 23
I was just driving along when I spotted this eagle sitting next to an unnamed lake in Otter Tail County. I pulled over and got photos of him from many angles and he didn't care at all. Later I noticed another eagle perched high in the tree next to him.
8) Biggest Secret
Remember this loon pair from Day 2? I refrained from naming the lake until the chicks hatched and I never did share where the photo was taken. Appropriately enough these two were nesting on Loon Lake near Vergas, Minnesota. I had hoped to get a picture of the chicks once they hatched but I never did see them. Loon Lake is a big lake, though, so I'm sure they are out there somewhere.
Loon Lake - Day 2
9) Favorite Photograph
Eagle Lake - Day 21
I simply love this photo of my six-year-old on the dock of Eagle Lake. I had the most fun when he came with on my photo adventures. I should take a picture of his camera, rain boots, fishing rod and fireman squirt gun with water tank that rode around in the back of my vehicle all summer long. They were his supplies and they kept him happy while I explored the shores of various lakes. We had many fun and special hours together.
10) Biggest Achievement
Four years. That's how long I have been trying to get an interesting sunset over Lake Melissa. I know they happen there all the time, because I've framed many photos from that lake for my customers, but every time I drove that way the sky fizzled out.
The other day I decided to take one more chance and drove that way through the rain hoping the skies would open up around sunset. I was not disappointed! I snapped my shutter like crazy through the rain as the sky in the west lit up. Then, to make a wonderful night even better, a flock of geese swam right into frame and then just sat there, bobbing for food and enjoying the sunset.
Lake Melissa - Day 100
I was really excited to finish the challenge, but it feels weird now that I'm done. Part of the point of doing something for 100 days is to build a new habit. I have trouble now passing a lake without stopping to photograph it.
I'm excited, though, to photograph whatever I feel like photographing. I also have gigs of photos to sort through and clean up. Last week I had to break down and buy another external hard drive. I'm looking forward to sorting through my files to see what I've missed in my rush to post the lake pictures. I also have another 30 or more lakes I photographed but never shared, too.
If I ever do this challenge again...
When I started this challenge I had planned several day and weekend trips to explore other lakes. I did manage one day trip to the Brainerd area, but that was it. If I ever did this challenge again I would limit myself to the lakes of Otter Tail County. Even though I spent the last 100 days photographing lakes, I can still look at a map and find a lake I've never heard of less than 30 miles from my home. There's more to explore!
I would also wait to begin the challenge until June for better weather. And I'd be retired so I could spend more time at each lake.
Thank you to everyone who followed along. You can see all of the photos from this challenge and my other photographs over on Instagram. Search #100Days100Lakes to see just the photos from my challenge. I enjoyed the journey and it was fun to hear that you did, too. So are any of you up for a challenge?