Posted by: kerryl29 | May 28, 2019

Wisconsin: Pewit’s Nest

The first site I visited on my brief two-day visit to central Wisconsin earlier this month was Pewit’s Nest State Natural Area.  This is a relatively small preserve, where Skillet Creek cuts a swath through a narrow, but deep, gorge.  I had visited this site once before–12 years ago, in the fall.  I was anxious to return, but upon arriving, leaving my car in the small, deserted parking area and making the short, steep hike up to the top of the bluff, I was extremely disappointed to find that the bluff was fenced in.  When I was last at Pewit’s Nest, there were no fences and essentially no restrictions on where visitors could tread, as long as they remained off adjacent private property.  Evidently, the state Department of Natural Resources felt that this was no longer tenable and I subsequently read that the restrictions were put in place two years ago following a series of events involving unsafe and/or inappropriate behavior on the part of visitors.

Immediately below are a couple of images that I made the last time that I was at Pewit’s Nest that can no longer be made–because it’s impossible to now reach the vantage points from which they were produced without breaching the barriers.

Pewit’s Nest State Natural Area, Wisconsin

Pewit’s Nest State Natural Area, Wisconsin

The truth of the matter is that access to Pewit’s Nest is now so limited compared to what was previously available, I don’t think it’s worth visiting for photography at this point.  But, since I did pay a visit to the site on this trip, I took the time to make a few images, restricted access notwithstanding.

Skillet Creek Waterfall, Pewit’s Nest State Natural Area, Wisconsin

The above image was about as good a view of the gorge as I could find.  The trees had just started to leaf out when I was there–they were still mostly in the budding stage.  If the trees are fully leafed, this perspective–including the waterfall and upstream area of the creek–is not visible.

Skillet Creek Waterfall Black & White, Pewit’s Nest State Natural Area, Wisconsin

The above shot is essentially just a horizontal version of the previous scene, converted to monochrome.

Prior to the erection of the fence, it was possible to–safely, as long as one took a modicum of care–maneuver among the many terraces on this side of the canyon and discover all kinds of interesting perspectives, like the one at the head of this post.

Skillet Creek Intimate Black & White, Pewit’s Nest State Natural Area, Wisconsin

Even from behind the fence, I was able to compose this long lens (this was somewhere around 300 mm) image of a small cascade in the creek.  I couldn’t get enough depth of field with a single shot, even at f/16, so I stacked three images to render the entire frame sharp (at f/7.1).

Given the difficulty of even seeing large parts of the creek in the deep canyon, I spent the remainder of my time at Pewit’s Nest picking out parts of the terraced canyon walls with my telephoto lens.

Canyon Wall Terrace, Pewit’s Nest State Natural Area, Wisconsin

Last year’s leaves and startlingly green moss and ferns…and lichen…dominated the canyon’s rock face.

Canyon Wall Terrace, Pewit’s Nest State Natural Area, Wisconsin

Canyon Wall Terrace, Pewit’s Nest State Natural Area, Wisconsin

Canyon Wall Terrace, Pewit’s Nest State Natural Area, Wisconsin

After spending a bit less than an hour at Pewit’s Nest on this morning, I moved on to McGilvra Woods State Natural Area, just a few miles west of Pewit’s Nest.  I’ll turn my attention to that site in my next entry.



  1. It’s too bad a few ruined the experience for others. Lovely images despite the restrictions.

    • Thanks. Yes, the restrictions are unfortunate but I strongly suspect that they were necessary to preserve this place.

  2. You still got some nice captures, though it is sad to see that accessibility is denied. Beautiful colours and textures. That would be a hard place to transport injured people out of after foolhardy moves, and I would hate to see some IDIOT”S initials painted or carved on nature’s face.

    • Thanks, Jane. And, agreed–graffiti would be most unwelcome.

  3. Still, Kerry, the moss and lichen shelf photos are truly beautiful in their texture and color. Another great serving of lemonade, my friend 🙂

    • Thanks very much, Lynn.

  4. Can you explain your process in determining whether a scene can be captured with sufficient depth of field in a single shot versus needing multiple images to acquire depth of field throughout? I can understand how looking at a broad landscape scene with a foreground element and a very far away background might demand multiple exposures to achieve depth of field throughout, but your Skillet Creek intimate in this post where you mention requiring 3 shots, has me a bit baffled.

    • Sure. If I have any doubts (I can frequently tell whether I’ll need to stack just by eyeballing the scene, a function of experience), the easiest way to determine whether I can capture the desired amount of DOF in a particular scene is to try doing so and review the image (magnified to 100%) on the camera’s LCD screen. That’s what I did for the image you referenced.

      The reason a stack was necessary in this instance was the sheer amount of magnification involved. For this image, I was standing on the top of a bluff looking down at the stream running through the bottom of the canyon. I was something like 100 feet away from the subject and (after reviewing the image) using a focal length of approximately 340 mm. With those parameters, the DOF, even at f/16, is a total of only about 20 feet…so, if you perfectly place the point of focus, you have about 10 feet on each side of the subject plane to work with. That’s not very much, and was plainly more than I had in this instance. In other words, the distance between the closest point in the frame and the most distant point in the frame was more than 20 feet. Once I determined that I couldn’t get the entire frame sharp at f/16–that I would need to stack–I opened up the aperture to f/7.1 (because that’s as narrow as you can make the aperture on the D800 series of cameras without beginning to introduce elements of diffraction). At f/7.1 the DOF for this instance is about 10.5 feet. Through a bit of quick experimentation I determined that I’d need three shots to get everything sharp (not surprising that two wouldn’t be enough since, even with absolutely perfect overlap, two shots would only give me about 21 feet and 20 wasn’t enough for one shot), so that’s what I did.

      Does this make sense? Let me know and I’ll attempt to clarify any points that I either overlooked completely or didn’t adequately cover.

      • Thanks for the explanation. That makes sense. I can tell, though, that I would have to definitely rely on some test shots because I’m terrible at judging distances. I would never be able to look at that scene and know a) how far away from the subject I was, and b) the distance between the closest and farthest points.

        • I’m pretty good at judging distances, but I could scarcely guess what the front-to-back margin was in that frame when I was in the field, so I had to do some quick experimenting. It’s often difficult to be certain, particularly when using a telephoto lens when the nearest object is in focus at something less than infinity, whether a stack may be needed and in that case a quick test will tell you everything you need to know.

  5. […] the first day of my brief trip to Wisconsin last month, after I wrapped at Pewit’s Nest I made the short drive west to McGilvra Woods State Natural Area, a small tract of hardwood forest […]

  6. […] same morning that saw me spend time at Pewit’s Nest and McGilvra Woods ended with a stint at Parphrey’s Glen State Natural Area.  (One of the […]

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