Morning in Shangri-La’s countryside

Rural morning in Shangri-La - © Christopher Martin-9415

The smoke from early fires, mist from the warming earth and sunlight filtering through the clouds created an interesting atmosphere around this small village in the countryside a few miles north of Shangri-La.  I ended up spending a couple of days in the rural areas outside of the city and enjoyed seeing this side of life and its juxtaposition with the urban pace in the city.

Sarrail Falls – a waterfall in the woods

Sarrail Falls in Kananaskis - © Christopher Martin-0634

The Sarrail Falls that spill across several terraces before emptying into the Upper Kananaskis Lake is a beautiful stretch of water surrounded by heavy forest in the steep hillside of Mount Sarrail’s lower slopes.  The path to this waterfall starts at the lake’s eastern parking lot and is set just above the shoreline.  It is a comfortable trail that is about 1-1.15 km to this feature but carries on around the entire lake.  I had planned to complete the loop but spent almost two hours watching, photographing, enjoying and studying the waterfall instead.

Sarrail Falls in Kananaskis - © Christopher Martin-0727

The 2013 flood hit this creek heavily destroying the bridge as well as sending tree trunks and boulders cascading down.  These are still found perched, lodged or lying nearby all along the water’s path.  I found a beauty in these that added to the overall scene and suggested to me the cycles of birth, growth and death as well as of constant change.  Along with the varying crescendos of the water’s orchestra, I found myself enjoying some deep thoughts and the time to chew on them – a luxurious gift to allow oneself!

Sarrail Falls in Kananaskis - © Christopher Martin-0665

At the end, with the morning moving quickly towards noon, I chose the short walk back and the lunch I had waiting for me.

An autumn morning reflected in Upper Kananaskis Lake

Upper Kananaskis Lake - © Christopher Martin-0586

I started a great day in Kananaskis earlier this weekend walking along the shoreline of the Upper Kananaskis Lake in the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.  At sunrise I was photographing a pair of moose, a mother and her calf, in a meadow and I ended up spending most of the morning at the Sarrail Falls.  However, when I parked near the boat launch at the lake, the soft light, subtle autumn accents, calm water and brilliant reflection of the mountains in the water mesmerized me for several minutes.  I had the lake to myself for a little while and enjoyed the beauty immensely.

Morning reflected in Upper Kananaskis Lake - © Christopher Martin-0593

Street scenes from Shangri-La

On the street in Shangri-La - © Christopher Martin-5942

When I was in Shangri-La in China a couple of weeks ago, I spent a fair bit of time before and after the award ceremony and activities walking around the city’s old town area.  I enjoyed photographing the street scenes I came across.

On the street in Shangri-La - © Christopher Martin-5880-2

Motion blur on the street in Shangri-La - © Christopher Martin-6068

On the street in Shangri-La - © Christopher Martin-5667

On the street in Shangri-La - © Christopher Martin-6876

I loved the three wheeled vehicles that thread through traffic carrying fruit, people, propane and almost anything else.

On the street in Shangri-La - © Christopher Martin-0243

On the street in Shangri-La - © Christopher Martin-5930

On the street in Shangri-La - © Christopher Martin-5936

On the street in Shangri-La - © Christopher Martin-5917

On the street - © Christopher Martin-5660

Above and below are from my first morning in China, before heading up to Shangri-La.  I stayed in a small town called Ka Fa Chu perched on the side of a steep valley above the Yangtze River.  I woke up and walked around the town visiting a small temple and ending along a busy street where the traffic heading up to Shangri-La passed close by.  These gentlemen were focused on this game which was not familiar to me but appeared to be equal parts chance and skill.

On the street in China - © Christopher Martin-5859

Eclipse of the super moon

September's super blood moon - © Christopher Martin-0370

Last night was the lunar eclipse where the moon turned a deep red which lasted for more than an hour.  I traveled to south to get to the edge of the clouds which had rolled in over my home in Bragg Creek before sunset.  In Turner Valley I found clear skies and set up as the moon was entering the earth’s shadow.

Super blood moon - © Christopher Martin-0337

I was awestruck, as usual, with this fourth of the tetrad of lunar eclipses which have been spaced six months apart starting in April 2014.

Super blood moon - © Christopher Martin-0413

It was a beautiful transit with the moon’s surface moving through oranges and reds before returning to her brilliant white.  It has been an incredible series of events to witness and I have enjoyed photographing them immensely.  I’m excited about the new beginnings and opportunities they herald.

Super blood moon - © Christopher Martin-0468

Views from Chatreng Khamtsen temple in Shangri-La

A view out from Chatreng Khamtsen - © Christopher Martin-6188-2

One of the smaller temples within the Sumtseling Monastery (also called the Songzanlin Monastery and Ganden Sumtseling Gompa) that I visited was Chatreng Khamtsen.

Chatreng Khamtsen - © Christopher Martin-6149

The temple is on a lower level from the main assembly and the temple where I listened to the monks praying and photographed one particularly friendly gentleman.  The flowers caught my eye as I walked down the stone staircase and after framing the image above with the temple’s main entrance on the right side, I went inside to have a look.

A candle inside Chatreng Khamtsen - © Christopher Martin-6175

I found it to be empty of people while filled with murals, bronze statues and deep silence.  It was a calm respite and I enjoyed a quiet moment to make an offering and light a candle for my family under one of the icons.  The beauty and spirituality of Sumtseling is immense and I will share more from this most special place.

Working with clay in Ni Xi

Na Xi Potter - © Christopher Martin-7016

A good friend and great photographer, Jorge Sarmento, and I rented a van and driver yesterday and drove out into the countryside.  We didn’t have any set agenda so we were just exploring the mountains and valleys as we went.  Our driver was a Tibetan and was from a small village called Ni Xi about 40 kilometres from Shangri-La.  We found that out when we asked about visiting that town which is renowned for its black pottery which results from baking it in the kiln without any coatings or glazes.  He drove us to his friend’s home who is an apprentice potter.  When we arrived, we asked if he would mind if we photographed him at work and he had no problem with that.  As we watched he created a tea-cup on this small wheel.  It was great to watch him work with his hands and tools to shape the final piece.  Along the way I learned that he was five years into his apprenticeship but I was not able to ask how long he would study under his teacher.  I absolutely loved watching the craftsmanship and ease with which he worked.  There was mastery in his work.  The two men were smoking while the cup was being made which gave Jorge the idea to increase the volume of smoke.  We had a puff of smoke blown in through the open window, with both men’s approval, which rolled and wrapped around as seen in this image.  It was a great idea and elevated an already compelling scene considerably.  Thank you Jorge!

A friendly monk at the Sumtseling Monastery

A friendly Songzanlin monk - © Christopher Martin-6116

I spent the morning and evening at the Songzanlin Monastery (also called Sumtseling Monastery and Ganden Sumtseling Gompa) yesterday.  Sutra chanting, deep tones which carried around the upper complex, drew me to the Duke Khamtsen building.  Prayers were ongoing in the hall behind this gentleman with roughly twenty monks intoning and drumming.  This was marked by the occasional sounding of a long horn.  I stayed there listening for a long time during which I spoke with this monk now and then.  He was very friendly and when I asked whether photographing this outer entrance was allowed, as photographing the inner hall during prayers is not allowed, he said it was and offered to be in the picture.  The photographs were infinitely better having him in them.  When I showed him, he approved and pulled a couple of his friends over to show them too.  It could not have worked out better.  The photographs are one thing, but he best part was being able to be in this moment enjoying the prayers, the feeling of well being and a little time with my higher self.

Prayer wheel in golden light

Dukezong Prayer Wheel in Shangri-La - © Christopher Martin-6028

The Dukezong prayer wheel lies in the heart of Shangri-La’s old town and stands over 24 metres tall (80′) atop Guishan (which translates as Tortoise Mountain).  It is a small hill but along with this massive bronze Tibetan prayer wheel is adorned with two beautiful structures that are the main buildings of the Dukezong Temple.

Dukezong Prayer Wheel in Shangri-La - © Christopher Martin-6013
I arrived in Shangri-La earlier in the day and went exploring with a recently made photographer friend once unpacked.  We made our way to the old town, which is a siren’s call for most visitors to Shangri-La, and was charmed by the vibrant people and character buildings.  Jorge needed a coffee and that sounded like a great idea.  We retired to a second floor coffee shop which afforded a great view of the street and Guishan.  With great coffee soon in hand, the clouds offered us a gift by parting to the west. With the sun close to setting, the warm light glowed on the wheel and the temple.  The coffee was forgotten for a few minutes at that point in favour of photographing.  A great start to my visit to this most interesting of places.

Dukezong Prayer Wheel in Shangri-La - © Christopher Martin-6033

An in-flight snack

A Merlin's inflight meal - © Christopher Martin-5597

I found this Merlin feasting from a fence top perch near High River last weekend.  I watched him for a couple of minutes before a hauling truck passed by.  At that point, the noise and proximity disturbed this fellow and he took flight.  He shot upwards with a couple of fast wing beats and then surprised me with a hovering break to grab another bite.  It was likely a readjustment of the load but it was neat to watch.

A Merlin's dinner - © Christopher Martin-5572

A Merlin's inflight meal - © Christopher Martin-5595

With the prey in the right place, he then banked away over the prairie and settled in the grass a couple hundred metres away to finish his meal.

A Merlin's inflight meal - © Christopher Martin-5610-3


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