The perch on the hill I photographed the Aurora Borealis and lightning storm from a couple of weeks ago is now officially one of my favourite prairie viewpoints. On the weekend, I left my home in the dark and headed northeast towards the growing dawn. With a short drive I returned back to the same spot and found the view to be beautiful.
A heavy cloud stretched overhead towards the horizon with a break which allowed the first rays of pink sunlight to skip along the underside. The fast rising sun quickly changed the light from pink to gold as it pushed through less of the atmosphere.
One of my drives home earlier this week was made more exciting by a massive thundercloud just south of Highway 8. I stopped near the Rockyview Fire Department in Elbow Valley and photographed as it rumbled past. There were a few lightning strikes that I managed to capture but I was paying more attention to the angry beast.
It was dark, dark grey in the center, the edges were rolling fast and the temperature plunged by 10°C or more just before the rain began to fall. I scurried back into my car once the volume raised up to a downpour. Back on the road, I wondered how the storm would develop as it moved eastward. The next morning, I learned that it contributed to the flooding and heavy hail that beat up Chestermere. That was one of the mean summer storms we get in the Calgary area and I am sorry to hear about the damage it caused.
This wild rose (Rosa acicularis), Alberta’s provincial flower, was glowing among the trees a couple of mornings ago when I was out early in Bragg Creek. The sun had just cleared a hilltop across the fields so the light was still soft and warm. Early mornings in the summer are a source of great inspiration from and communion with nature for me.
Nanton is a small town along the Trans-Canada Highway close to an hour south of Calgary. I stayed out overnight on the prairies just east of town for some solo photographing. A storm was fading at sunset but not enough to let any color show through the clouds so I did not make any interesting images before nightfall. In the middle of the night, the Aurora Borealis came out in subtle fashion and that got me out shooting from then through sunrise. I will share some of the Northern Lights images soon but wanted to first share some of the photographs from before dawn.
I love the skies on the prairies and this morning’s canvas was beautiful. I traveled along the gravel roads and found a couple of nice locations. The layers of clouds caught different colours through the morning and I had fun composing those against silhouettes from the land.
After a chilly night photographing and then sleeping at the foot of the Athabasca Glacier, I shook off the cold with a cup of tea before getting out of my sleeping bag and taking a look around. It was about 5:30 am when I was up and the blues and whites in the sky and on the mountains were lovely as they waited for the sun to light them up.
The image above was made at 5:47 am and less than 10 minutes later, the pink sunlight of dawn was splashing the upper reaches of the mountains on either side of the glacier. It was beautiful and I took turns between watching the light move across the slopes and trying to remember to photograph.
I started where the light first reached along Parker Ridge and Hilda Peak on the western side of the Sunwapta Pass, then worked to the right watching as Mount Athabasca and Mount Andromeda were hit with shafts of light here and there.
I panned across the Athabasca Glacier towards the Dome Glacier and saw the light show unfolding there a couple of minutes behind my location. I ran to my car and drove to a viewpoint where I could see up the valley to the glacier and up to the peak of Mount Kitchener (the first image in this post). It proved to be a good move and I was able to watch the sunlight as it transitioned from pink into gold.
When the golden hue started to drain out of the light, I packed up and headed north towards Jasper. A couple of kilometres down the road, I noticed this peak still basking in beautiful light. I stopped and made this last image of a fine morning in the Rocky Mountains.
I visited Jasper National Park for a couple of days over the Victoria Day long weekend. The park has a different feel (both are great – just different) from Banff and I always look forward to spending time there. I plan to share a few stories of time I spent with some of the magnificent wildlife there but will start with a really fun moment.
This black bear was grazing in the ground cover of a stretch of open forest when I found him. I watched him scratch, sniff and chew on shrubs, flowers and roots for several minutes and then he sauntered over to this small tree.
Rearing up on his hind legs, he seemed really happy to rub his back up and down against the spiky needles. I’m not sure how much scratching he felt with his thick coat so maybe it was more for the scent or to shake off some insects. No matter the reason, it was cool to see a bear dancing for his own reasons.
The Aurora Borealis has been very strong for a few nights in a row, reaching southern Alberta regularly which comes after what has seemed like a very long absence. Perhaps it has just been me that was absent for shows since last year but being out for this one on the night of March 18-19. When I went out at 11pm, there was a dull green bow low in the sky towards Calgary. After a while, the arch began to glow brighter and stretch higher. Columns then started to separate from the green band and the arch itself dissolved. For the next couple of hours the lights shifted their shapes, colors and intensity.
I was out on the berm that sits between Redwood Meadows and the Elbow River. The height of the berm, the rocky shoreline and the snow remnants allowed for a variety of perspectives. The three and half hours that the Northern Lights performed allowed me the time to explore these. It was an amazing night.
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.
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.
An early morning east of Calgary near Strathmore looking for Snowy owls came up with only one shy one isolated in a field. This allowed time to see the prairie landscape. And, as it has turned out, one of the last days before the warm weather of the past couple of weeks came and melted all of the snow. While I’m not missing the bitter cold, I did enjoy the icy air and snow-covered fields when I was out then.