Alberta

A Snowy owl against the evening sky

Langdon Snowies - © Christopher Martin-0591

Canon 5DIII camera + 500mm f/4 lens: 1/640 seconds at f/4 on ISO 3200

I spotted this Snowy owl perched on this oil and gas installation east of Langdon.  She was about a kilometre off the road so I parked, grabbed my gear and headed over.  She was scanning to the east while I approached from the west side.  As I walked she kept an eye on my, swivelling her neck to watch me infrequently.  From a hundred metres away, with colour brushing into the sky as the sun set, I stopped to compose this photograph.  I love these birds and I love sunsets – these seemed to be interesting juxtapositions to the storage tank she was perched on.

 

 


Dawn along the prairie’s horizon

A fiery dragon over the prairie - © Christopher Martin-8907-2

Early morning is my favourite time to be out on the prairies at any time of the year.  There is a tranquility born out of the silence that hangs over the land before dawn whose beauty draws me in.  I love the big sky and where it meets the horizon as the sun approaches there is an evolving magic which shows different faces as the night retreats and slips away.

Prairie dawn - winter morning - © Christopher Martin-8959

This morning southeast of High River in early January this year was beautiful.  The silhouette of the trees and the grain silos provided great anchors in these photographs of the eastern glow and the blazing cloud that suggested a dragon’s nature to me.

Prairie dawn - winter morning - © Christopher Martin-8977

Prairie dawn - winter morning - © Christopher Martin-8857


Photographing through dawn on the prairies

Dawn hoar frost landscape - © Christopher Martin-9565

I spent a morning photographing the sun rising over the prairies west of Calgary on the weekend.  In the image above, the alpen glow to the west heralds the sun’s coming approach.  When the sun came up, the pink quickly washed out of the sky and painted the eastern flanks of the Rocky Mountains and then these stands of trees that break up this field along Highway 8.  I love watching these transitions as colors deepen, fade and change altogether.

Dawn hoar frost landscape - © Christopher Martin-9614

Facing a low sun, shadows stretched out long across the snow.  I played with those for a bit under the increasingly blue sky before heading home.

Dawn hoar frost landscape - © Christopher Martin-9755


Hoar frost abstract

Hoar frost abstract - © Christopher Martin-9788

It was -26°C as I stood with my tripod watching the sun climb off the horizon to start the day. Hoar frost enveloped these branches creating a beautifully tangled, chaotic pattern.  The sunlight streamed in, reflecting off of the ice and snow.


My favourite wildlife photographs from 2015

 

Bow Valley Grizzly Bear - © Christopher Martin-2372

The past year was an interesting one for my wildlife photography.  I stayed largely in Alberta for the year and the animals presented in this gallery are almost all from close to my home.  Reflecting on that, I’m reminded what an incredible place I live in. Owls were prominent throughout the year with Snowy, Great gray and Great horned owls all sharing time with me.  Black and Grizzly bears were less seen for me but what I had were memorable for me.  I continue to deeply appreciate the more common animals and enjoyed revisiting some of those images when I was putting together this set.  The gallery is made up of 40 images and can be visited by clicking this link or the link above.

Bragg Creek spring owl - © Christopher Martin-5762

Looking back over the year, I pushed myself to create more dynamic images with a goal to show more of the animal’s power, grace and general movement.  I wanted to bring more patience to my time in the field and that has paid off with longer encounters and more enjoyment of the beautiful places I am in while I wait for something to fly, walk or run past.  I have continued to learn more about the animals that I spend time with and that knowledge benefits me in many ways beyond photography. This year I began connecting on a spiritual level with many of the animals that I encounter.  That continues to be an amazing journey whose benefit to my photography is significant but is a distant second to feeling the awareness of these beautiful creatures.

Bull Elk Rutting - © Christopher Martin-1945

I’m excited for the encounters that will come in the new year, the connections I will seek to establish and the places these intentions will lead me to.  Thank you for following my imagery through the year – I am honoured by everyone who chooses to spend time looking at, and hopefully enjoying, my photographs.  Let’s see where things go in 2016…

Jasper Black Bear - © Christopher Martin Photography-9739


Elbow River Dawn

Elbow River Dawn - © Christopher Martin-1831-2

I went out for a mountain bike this morning along the Elbow River.  The temperature was near -20°C and the snow-covered trails were a bit slippery – and it was a great ride.  It was before the sun had come up and the land was emerging from the dark draped in soft, bluish light.  The alpen glow in the clear sky to the west added a magical pink hue to the scene.

Elbow River Dawn - © Christopher Martin-1826-2

These two images were taken before and after the sunlight lit up the Kananaskis mountains.  The first was at 8:27 and the next 13 minutes later, just a minute after sunrise.

Elbow River Dawn - © Christopher Martin-1841

 

 


New Year’s Eve Eagles

A New Year's Eve Eagle - © Christopher Martin-8610

A pair of Bald eagles were drawn to Redwood Meadows today.  My daughter and I spotted them flying overhead when we were on our way to grab an ice cream cone in Bragg Creek.  We stopped going there and again on the way back.  They were drawn by a deer that had died near the golf course.  Ravens were on the ground while the eagles bided their time above in the nearby trees.

A New Year's Eve Eagle - © Christopher Martin-8528

A New Year's Eve Eagle - © Christopher Martin-8554

A New Year's Eve Eagle - © Christopher Martin-8609

 

A New Year's Eve Eagle - © Christopher Martin-8568

A New Year's Eve Eagle - © Christopher Martin-8578


More from the Yamnuska Aurora

Aurora Borealis over Yamnuska - © Christopher Martin-7995

On December 20th, the Aurora Borealis were very active above the Ghost Lake area.  I spent a bit of time photographing a prairie church with the Northern Lights before I went to Mount Yamnuska.  The colors visible against the night sky varied between green, purple and blue as the charged particles slamming into the Earth’s upper atmosphere interacted with different atoms.

Aurora over Yamnuska - © Christopher Martin-7561

Aurora over Yamnuska - © Christopher Martin-7774

Aurora over Yamnuska - © Christopher Martin-7881

Aurora over Yamnuska - © Christopher Martin-7868

After a couple of hours, it was close to 6am and I was pretty worn out.  One of my last images, below, I was facing northeast and caught the aurora along with the city glow from Cochrane and the earliest hint of dawn.  I went home and played catch up with sleep.

Aurora over Yamnuska - © Christopher Martin-8051

 


Merry Christmas!

I hope that everyone is enjoying a Merry Christmas with those they love.  We had an early start with Santa’s stockings for the kids starting the morning off right.  Coffee helped the adults wake up, and then catch up, with Kezia’s and Kian’s enthusiasm.  A lot of laughs, smiles and hugs – just what this daddy was looking for!

Great horned owl at Christmas - © Christopher Martin-6717

This Great horned owl was a patient subject when I was guiding a new friend and fellow photographer from Colorado around the prairies.  We toured the gravel backroads east of High River and this was the first of three owls (two Great horned and one Snowy) we spent some time with.  With the very light plumage, I think of it as a Christmas owl.  It must be the season!

With warmest regards from my family to yours,

Chris


Aurora and the McDougall Church

McDougall Aurora - © Christopher Martin-7280

The Aurora Borealis was just starting to visibly glow when I arrived at the McDougall Memorial United Church near Morley, Alberta.  Cochrane’s city lights reflected off the large cloud behind the church which brought the peach hues into the scene.  It is a tranquil scene to look at while I recall the heavy wind and biting cold that came along with it.  Still, I was happy to be out and it was a beautiful start to a great night watching the Northern Lights.


Aurora over Yamnuska

Aurora over Yamnuska - © Christopher Martin-7588

On the weekend the Aurora Borealis leaped to life on both Saturday and Sunday night.  I was too tired to head out on Sunday night after staying out until 6am that morning.  The Northern Lights rippled for over five hours so I had the luxury of being able to travel around and photograph them in different locations.  I finished the night at the foot of Mount Yamnuska and watched them dance until just before dawn.  I will have more to share soon but wanted to post this one from the early selects where the charged electrons were interacting with Nitrogen in the Earth’s upper atmosphere to create the less typical purple flames alongside the Oxygen which creates the more common green glow.


A Snowy day on the Prairies

Snowy owl in the field - © Christopher Martin-5860
I have a deep admiration for Snowy owls.  The range they cover, their adaptability, their calm repose they show when resting and their beauty while in flight are just the tip of a long list.  This time of the year is exciting for me as it marks the return of these owls to the prairies.  I was aware of recent sightings near Frank Lake and decided to head down there on the weekend.  A beautiful sunrise greeted me shortly after I arrived and then I set about touring the backroads in search of these wonderful birds.

Snowy owl in the field - © Christopher Martin-4705

After an hour I found this owl perched on the fence dividing up the prairie.  She watched me stop and get out of my car with some interest and then spent much of the next four hours ignoring me!  I packed on as much glass as I had (a 500mm with a 1.4x extender) and crossed onto the field.  She was a couple of hundred meters from the road so I took an indirect line to get closer and tried to make sure I didn’t make her anxious or uncomfortable.  After 15 minutes I was about 30 metres away and she head her eyes closed more than open.  The photograph above was one of the moments when she looked my way.  Over the next hour and a half, the wind blew, she made two separate short flights low over the fields returning to a nearby fence post, I got chilled and she seemed to catch up on a fair bit of sleep.  I loved sharing time there and when she finally flew off across the road and out of sight, I thought that was the end.

Snowy owl in the field - © Christopher Martin-5836

I was wrong.  I returned to my car, packed things up again, and drove west back towards Frank Lake.  About two kilometres down the road, there she was standing in a field of sticks close to the road.  These dried out stalks made an interesting environment to photograph the owl in and I set up in the ditch so I was low to the ground.  Looking at the time stamp on the image files, we stayed there for more than two hours, however it did not seem anywhere near that long.  She started to become a bit restless for a few minutes before she flew.  Preening feathers and looking around in all directions until she finally leaped back into the air.

Snowy owl in the field - © Christopher Martin-5865

I followed her to her intended destination which was a pair of grain silos just across the road.  She alighted next to the open cover of one of the silos and I had a perfect spot to watch her leaning against my car.

Snowy owl in the field - © Christopher Martin-5919

The picture above was not the owl landing on the silo.  There must have been mice in the silo because during the 20 minutes she perched on that lip she spent a fair bit of time looking down into hole.  Staring intently mostly but a couple of times she spread her wings out and I thought she might dive in there.  When she flew off, she followed the roofline down and disappeared from my view.  I think she was chasing a mouse but I’m not sure if she caught it or not.

Snowy owl in the field - © Christopher Martin-6013

After a few seconds, the owl flew back into sight when it banked around the silos and crossed the road again.  I followed her once again until she disappeared over the low rise.  Again, I thought that was the end of this extended visit.

Snowy owl in the field - © Christopher Martin-6025

Again, I was wrong.  She landed a little further down the road, I followed and we spent another hour watching one another.  Well, me watching her and her paying much more attention to everything else.

Snowy owl in the field - © Christopher Martin-6048

The weather was changing fast with the wind carrying the clouds further east and leaving blue sky and sunshine behind.  I think both the owl and I enjoyed that.  I had bundled up so the chill was gone – the Snowy had no such challenges.

Snowy owl in the field - © Christopher Martin-6079

Snowy owl in the field - © Christopher Martin-6161

The encounter did truly end when she either grew tired of my company or was ready for a meal off of the prairie.  A pretty fantastic experience for me.

Snowy owl in the field - © Christopher Martin-6292

Snowy owl in the field - © Christopher Martin-6293


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