Author Archive

Aurora over the Elbow River

 

Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2500-3

Canon 5DIII – 24mm lens: 6 seconds on f/1.8 at ISO 3200

In the middle of the active Aurora that reached southern Alberta the lights were reflecting brightly over the waters of the Elbow River in Redwood Meadows.


Saint Patrick’s Aurora

Saint Patrick's Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2473
Canon 5DIII – 24mm lens: 2.5 seconds on f/1.8 at ISO 6400

The night after St. Patrick’s Day brought out the Aurora Borealis over southern Alberta.  Along the Elbow River, west of Calgary, the bands of color rippled in the sky and on the surface of the water for several hours.  I met two photographers, Stacey and Clif, out on the berm.  They had come out to Redwood Meadows in search of the Northern Lights.  The show took a little while to start so it was nice to chat while we waited.  When the lights did start to dance it was beautiful.  I will share more images from the night soon as the colours and mood changed throughout the night and allowed for great variety.


Snowy owl on the hunt in Irricana

 

Spring Snowy Owls - © Christopher Martin-1653-2

This Snowy owl’s dive into the grass directly below was a great moment to watch.  The bird’s intense focus when it started tracking the prey from the perch on the fence through to the awesome descent to attack were welcome rewards given the time invested.  I found this Snowy on this fence post a little after 9 am and quickly set up my camera and lens across the field from her.  For the next 2 1/2 hours, she shuffled, scratched, preened, and dozed.  She seemed to have little interest in me, the field mice or in flying for most of that time.  She kept watch of everything going on around her but her talons may have been nailed to the wood!  I was hadn’t expected to wait that long but with her relaxed manner, I hoped when she did fly it would be in the direction she faced when I first stopped.  That direction was facing towards me and in the end she did do that.  I thought if she flew that way, I would have a few in flight opportunities but this dive was short in both time and distance.  I was happy to have captured a couple of frames before she disappeared into the grass.

Spring Snowy Owls - © Christopher Martin-1654-2

I waited for about 10 minutes for her to climb out of the tall grass and when she did it was heading away from me.  Given the time on the ground, I would wager that she did catch the prey and spent the time out of sight enjoying the meal.


Irricana Dawn

Irricana farm before sunrise - © Christopher Martin-0755-2
I returned to Irricana recently to look for Snowy owls.  I left early and arrived well before night had given much ground to day.  Having criss-crossed the backroads west of the town, I have a decent feel for the farmland in the area and took the opportunity to photograph a couple of locations while the clouds were glowing pink ahead of the sunrise.

Prairie abstract - © Christopher Martin-0787
A lost wallet and a flat tire, both noticed about an hour after the last of these photographs was taken, made me feel like I earned these images a bit more than usual.  The wallet had fallen out of my pocket unnoticed when I was at the farmstead above.  A fair bit of time spent retracing my stops before finding it undisturbed in the middle of the gravel road.  When I picked up the wallet, I noticed the flat rear tire.  Along the way to Irricana, I apparently drove over a hardware store as Phil’s Auto in Irricana (very friendly people – thank you for the coffee!) later showed me the 3 inch long screw that had lodged into the tire.  The wallet was recovered before I found the first owl and by the time of my appointment at 3 pm, I was happy to have had several good encounters with 5 different Snowies.  I will share those soon.  These prairie landscape images from a beautiful morning heralded what became one of the more interesting days I have had out on the prairies.

Irricana sunrise - © Christopher Martin-0799-2


Coyotes on the Albertan prairie

Coyote scout - © Christopher Martin-0668

I found this pair of Coyotes while driving the backroads west of the Springbank airport last weekend.  The male was laying down and enjoying the sun when they came into view.  The female, seen in the image below, had been trotting around nearby and only stopped when she saw me.  She stared at me for a few seconds but with the headwind and the sun in her eyes she took a long blink before turning away and taking up a sitting position a bit further from me.

Coyote blink - © Christopher Martin-0661

The male rose up and crossed warily along a low ridge parallel to me before heading back towards the female.  They both looked healthy and I believe the patches on the female’s side are her winter coat shaking out rather than mange or some other irritation.  I hope they are planning to den in that area – I’d love to watch their pups this spring.

Coyote scout - © Christopher Martin-0676


Landscape images in 2014

Lightning along the storm's edge, Redwood Meadows, Alberta

I have created a gallery of scenic images that I curated from a recent look back at 2014.  If you are interested in seeing these landscapes, please click on any image or this link.

El Tule cloud comet, Los Cabos, Mexico

In 2014 I spent much of my time waiting for wildlife when I was out with my camera.  That came at the expense of some time I may have used to search for interesting landscapes and compelling ways to interpret them in my imagery.  Far from being lost opportunities, I treasured the time when I was focused on the land a little more than I have previously.

Moonrise over Mount Rundle, Banff National Park, Alberta

Reviewing last year’s images, I see growth and feel like I am successfully bringing more of my emotion in the moment and some of “me” into the landscapes I am photographing.  It is that interpretation where I am happily expending energy focusing on.


Happy Birthday Kian!

Kian - © Christopher Martin-0394

To my son Kian, you are a strong, brilliant warrior.  I love your sense for doing what is right, your passion for knowledge, your rough and tumble physicality, and your love of life, light (and Minecraft!).  And, above all else, I simply love you.

Kian's 8th birthday party - © Christopher Martin-0737

Kian - © Christopher Martin-3603

You have held my heart in your hand everyday since you were born eight years ago.  There is no place I would rather it be.

Kian - © Christopher Martin-1815

Kian just after his 1st birthday.  And below, from last fall flushed after a long play in the leaves.

Kian - © Christopher Martin-1373


Clutching at grass

Irricana Snowy Owls - © Christopher Martin-1864

One of the Snowy owls that I photographed recently made a dive while I was watching.  She came up without a mouse but had a clutch of grass instead.  I’m sure it wasn’t her preference but it was a bit unusual to see one of these raptors flying around with a talon full of grass.  She gave a couple of good looks around as she looked for another target during the same sortie but had no luck on this flight.

Snowy's stare - © Christopher Martin-1863

Prairie flight - © Christopher Martin-1859

 


Snowy owls aloft in the blue sky

Overhead, underview - © Christopher Martin-2425
A sky free of clouds and a polarizer filter allowed for rich blue sky backgrounds for the flight shots I was able to take from morning through to noon last weekend.  South of Irricana, along Highway 567, there were five owls that I saw.  I was able to have eight separate encounters with these owls as I drove between their respective territories.
Snowy owl mid-flight - © Christopher Martin-1519
Full extension - © Christopher Martin-1517
It was pretty cold, -20°C, so waiting for each of the launches was a bit numbing.  But I like the set of images and the fingers did warm up later in the day.
Shadow wing - © Christopher Martin-2469
With the mild winter, that day excepted, that we have enjoyed so far, I have no idea how long the Snowy owl population will stay before they head north to their breeding grounds.  While they are here, it is great fun to be able to spend some time watching and photographing these most beautiful of birds.
Wings up, landing gear down - © Christopher Martin-1509

A Snowy owl’s elusive smile

A Snowy cry - © Christopher Martin-1524

This Snowy owl had been chirping at some ravens nearby when it was perched on a telephone pole and they were flying above.  Eventually one came too close which prompted the owl’s leap into the air.  She looped around the pole once before settling on another one further from the mischief makers.  While banking in the turn photographed above she cried out again.  This time proved an excellent opportunity to photograph her “smile”.


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