I drove to the High River area on the weekend to look for owls. It was still dark when I found a Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) perched to the side of a small pond east of Frank Lake.
I set up on the side of the road and spent almost two hours watching him from across the water. The morning slowly got brighter but with heavy gray clouds diffusing the sunlight, it stayed dark for most of the first hour. The owl alternated between short naps and moments of intent staring at any stray sound or motion. These last were both mostly imperceptible to me but kept my attention, and the long lens, focused on him.
Just before 9 am, he stretched wings vertically and launched into the air. After a couple of quick strokes, he glided over the pond and landed in a bare limbed tree.
The skeletal branches did not suit for long and he crossed to another tree edging the pond. This tree was heavy with autumn tinged leaves and provided a third distinct setting for me to photograph this beautiful tiger owl in.
After a few more minutes, he walked down the branch and settled closer to the trunk and more out of sight. I packed up and while I was putting my tripod away, I watched him fly out and glide over the field behind the pond.
Autumn brings with it layers of clouds which often stretch across the morning sky and catch wonderful colors before and during the sun’s rise.
Canon 5DIII and 24mm lens: 1/25th of a second on f/11 and ISO 800
The early morning sky was beautiful this morning. I stopped for a while to watch the clouds move from the pinks and purples to the reds and oranges and then into the yellow and golds. This bull was not impressed by any of that – he was calling from his solo field to the cows in the field across the road. He stared at me at one point and that worked for me.
When I was in the Khutzeymateen (K’tzim-a-deen) in June, the sedge was waist-high in the estuary which sits at the end of park’s fjord. The Grizzly bears come out of hibernation in late May or early June and the grass is growing fast and waiting for them. We spent an hour watching this boar mowing a path through the green. He was a big, beautiful bear and it was a privilege to spend some time watching him in his valley.
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We took the zodiac from the sailboat in the morning and were lucky that the weather didn’t beat us up. The rain varied between a drizzle and a downpour which provided great mood to some of the images. Being in the Great Bear Rainforest on the west coast, it can rain hard and often does. There is a point where it is impossible to photograph, or even stay outside, but that day it went easy on us and played nicely. Along the way we saw several bears at different points in the estuary and only headed out when the tide started to come in.
A cold morning greeted me at Elbow Falls yesterday. I set up from a rocky perch above the river and enjoyed watching the day come in. The clouds above caught the early pink light while the land below was gently brushed by the alpen glow that preceded sunrise.
Last weekend I was in Kananaskis and was very fortunate to watch a Grizzly bear digging up roots, swimming in the Kananaskis River and walking above and along the shoreline. After a beautiful, mist-filled morning at Wedge Pond I pulled out my longer lenses and drove along Highway 40 intent upon driving over the Highwood Pass. There is a spot a few kilometres south of Mount Kidd where a bend in the river draws close to the road and affords a clear view of both sides of the shoreline.
I saw the bear walking into the forest above the water as I came up to the river bend. She came back into sight a couple hundred metres further down in a small clearing. For a half an hour she shuffled between a couple of similar breaks in the forest above the water. I thought she was going to continue around the corner and out of sight but instead she walked into the water and swam across to the other shore. She pulled out of the water and set about digging back in the trees for most of an hour.
She came into clear view on the bank twice which allowed for some nice opportunities. The rest of the time I enjoyed watching her as she went about her business. During this time, one of the park rangers stopped by and monitored the bear for a while. He kindly shared information about this beautiful animal. She is Bear Number 151 and is one of three cubs that left their mother this spring. The mother is native to Kananaskis and raised the triplets in the area for their first three years covering an impressive amount of territory during that time.
151 looked very healthy and the ranger confirmed that these bears were doing well and had not developed any habits which could bring them into conflict with people. I was very glad to hear that. He carried on with his duties which called him to other parts of Kananaskis and I continued watching her. Several times, when a few minutes had passed with no sign of her, I thought she had melted into the forest and ended this special encounter. At one point I didn’t see her for 15 minutes and had begun packing up my gear. I looked back towards the river just as she stepped out of the thick bushes and onto a sandy strip on the far side of the river.
She sniffed at the air, angled to her left and crossed the sand. At the water, she crossed a shallow part and then swam over to a dead tree likely uprooted in the 2013 flood.
It was a first for me to watch a bear climb this kind of tree, with all of the spiny branches, in this river shore landscape.
I really had fun photographing her moving through her land. When she got onto the bank, returning to the clearing where I had first photographed her, she made a quick dig for roots and then walked into the woods towards the road. I jogged up to the road and after a few minutes she came out a few hundred metres north, quickly crossed the road and headed into the forest that anchors the western slope of The Wedge.
With the early snows of the past week, I was eager to get into the mountains to see how things looked up there this weekend. I went up to Wedge Pond which sits below Mount Kidd in Kananaskis. This small, shallow pot lake is a great location in the fall as it is ringed by a variety of trees and catches the mountain’s reflection in its quiet waters.
It was overcast when I headed out but the sky was more promising in the mountains. Before dawn, the mist started to rise off the water. It was cold and seemed to be perfect conditions for the creation of low clouds and heavy mist. That worked for me and I enjoyed photographing along the shoreline through sunrise.
The leaves on the deciduous trees are just starting to change color so I will make sure to return in a couple of weeks to catch their golds and oranges. The elk rut should start around the same time so I’m looking forward to hearing their bugling in the forest surrounding the pond then too.
My son and I were in Banff for the weekend and went out for a drive along the Vermilion Lakes just before sunset on Saturday night. We stopped at the first lake to watch the colors deepen on the face of Mount Rundle as the sun was going down. Another photographer, Grace Chen visiting from Calgary, asked me where the moon would be rising. I had to admit that I didn’t know – I hadn’t done any planning as Kian and I were water sliding all afternoon and the drive was a last-minute decision. I was quite surprised when I next looked in the viewfinder and saw a sliver of white rising behind the mountain! It was fun to point at the peak as a response to her question.
The moon climbed quickly, becoming steadily brighter and I finished shooting less than half an hour after first seeing it. The sunlight on the mountain moved from deep yellow to a beautiful red while the sky steadily darkened. It was not quite a full moon, being at 98%, but was still bright and wonderful.
It was 27°C (81°F) on Sunday in Bragg Creek and we enjoyed a wonderful summer day. Monday was an altogether different story. It dropped to 0°C (32°F) overnight and freezing rain turned to snow before noon. By the afternoon the fields towards Calgary were white and in Redwood Meadows, the tree boughs were weighed down by a thick blanket of snow.
The forecast indicates that this unseasonal (though far from unheard of in these parts) weather will not last long. By next weekend, we should be over 20°C again – here’s hoping!