Alberta

Catching early light in the clouds

Prairie dawn over Springbank - © Christopher Martin-8717-2

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.

Prairie Dawn - © Christopher Martin-8716

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.

Prairie Dawn - © Christopher Martin-8747

 

 


A wicked lightning storm

Prairie Storm Lightning - © Christopher Martin-8527

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.

Prairie Storm Lightning - © Christopher Martin-8558

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.

Prairie Storm Lightning - © Christopher Martin-8566


Wild Rose Country

Wild rose morning in Bragg Creek - © Christopher Martin-6182

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 Dawn

Prairie Dawn - © Christopher Martin-4120

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.

A prairie silhouette - © Christopher Martin-3998

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.

Prairie Dawn - © Christopher Martin-4027

Prairie Dawn - © Christopher Martin-0882

Prairie Dawn - © Christopher Martin-0906


Dawn at the Columbia Icefields

Dawn at the Columbia Icefields - © Christopher Martin Photography-0431

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.

Dawn at the Columbia Icefields - © Christopher Martin Photography-0416-2

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.

Dawn at the Columbia Icefields - © Christopher Martin Photography-0688

Dawn at the Columbia Icefields - © Christopher Martin Photography-0698

Dawn at the Columbia Icefields - © Christopher Martin Photography-0712

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.

Dawn on Mount Kitchener - © Christopher Martin Photography-0424-2

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.

Dawn at the Columbia Icefields - © Christopher Martin Photography-0693

Dawn at the Columbia Icefields - © Christopher Martin Photography-0695

Dawn at the Columbia Icefields - © Christopher Martin Photography-0723

Dawn at the Columbia Icefields - © Christopher Martin Photography-0736

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.

Dawn at the Columbia Icefields - © Christopher Martin Photography -0437-2

 


A backscratching bear’s dance

Backscratching bear dancer - © Christopher Martin-9297

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.

Black bear shuffle and stare - © Christopher Martin-9121

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.

Backscratching bear dancer - © Christopher Martin-9279

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.

Backscratching bear dancer - © Christopher Martin-9286

Backscratching bear dancer - © Christopher Martin-9287

Backscratching bear dancer - © Christopher Martin-9300

 

 

 

 


The Northern Lights over Southern Alberta

Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2319
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.

Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2522

– Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2382-2

 –

Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2572

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.

Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2549

Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2539

Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2491

Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2505

Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2383

Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2529

Spring Equinox Aurora - © Christopher Martin-2472


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


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

Prairie landscapes

Prairie ghost light - © Christopher Martin-0264

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.

Lonely Snowy Owl - © Christopher Martin-9963

Broke down - © Christopher Martin-0344

Backlight on the prairie - © Christopher Martin-9940


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