A heavy blizzard blew through southern Alberta on Sunday. The snow fell throughout the day with the wind keeping pace alongside. The trees on the edge of Kananaskis Country caught pieces of the storm and twirled the snow around the branches in the evergreens.
As the moon waxed towards full this weekend, I spent an evening at Elbow Falls to photograph the landscape at night. The clear air allowed stars to shine even with a relatively short exposure and small aperture (10 seconds and f/8.0, respectively). Always a bit lonely sitting out there for a couple of hours but the stars are really good company.
The 6400 ISO and the bright moonlight allowed for some of the great details at this magical place in Kananaskis Country to show in the image. I am impressed with the improvements in the dSLR’s low-light capabilities over the last couple of years. A couple of years ago I spent another evening up at these falls. At that time I was using a Canon 1D Mark III and when compared with the image above and others where I used a 5D Mark III, the detail, structure of the noise and the color are all vastly improved. The technology is less and less of an obstacle to realizing the images I want to make. I like that a lot.
There are significant pressures on the forests that extend from Bragg Creek through Kananaskis Country. Kananaskis has sixty parks within its borders which protect two-thirds of the area. Kananaskis was set up as a multi-use area which would address the “needs of industry, ranching and tourism are still balanced with the mandate to preserve the animals, plants, and processes that keep the Kananaskis Country ecosystem healthy” (history). The current plans include a clearcut of roughly 700 hectares west of Bragg Creek around the Moose Mountain area. I was asked to pull together a gallery of images from West Bragg Creek and Kananaskis that could help show what stands to be lost if plans like this are acted upon. Click on the image below to link to this gallery if you are interested.
Clear-cutting scares me. I grew up in the Kootenay Valley in British Columbia’s interior and my father had a logging operation along with several tourism based businesses. His crew harvested forests by employing selective logging, they didn’t clearcut. The areas which were clearcut in the valleys there, and here in Alberta, often do not recover well. The topsoil washes away, new trees planted have challenges taking hold and then there are the animals. Obviously they can’t stick around once the cover, their homes and their food is lost. The impact is severe for most species and I hope the efforts made to change the current plans are successful. The Bragg Creek and Kananaskis Outdoor Recreation group has their finger on the pulse of this issue. For those who are interested there are things we can do to be heard and help to influence the decision makers. If you are interested, please visit their website for information on the proposed logging and what is being done. Sustain Kananaskis is another group that is working very hard to raise awareness and change the current plans. I do not have any direct connection with Sustain Kananaskis but their website has a lot of information and I agree with everything that I see in their mission statement.
A storm threatened to cross over the western ridges in Kananaskis yesterday when I was in the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. The ridge above caught my eye and displayed the tension high up on the mountains.
Jeff and I were driving back from the Kananaskis Lakes in the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park when we saw a coyote trotting along the side of the road. We pulled over, set up some long lenses and watched it approach. As it drew closer, it neither sped up nor slowed down. It cast a few glances our way but seemed to have some other place to be.
This animal looked to be in good health and did not look to be stressed as it carried on. We were both very curious where it may have been heading.
After a few minutes, with the tail bobbing up and down with its bouncy stride, the coyote went out of sight as it rounded a corner further up the road.
(click the image to go to a higher resolution version)
Spent most of the day up in Kananaskis hiking, photographing and looking for wildlife. Such a beautiful and varied country there. I get focused in on a particular location or species so that I forget about the whole package sometimes. Yesterday was one of those great times where I felt like I was enjoying, and appreciating, the whole. If you have a chance to head up to any of the areas that make up K-Country take it, I hope you like it as much as I do.
I am drawn back to Mount Kidd in Kananaskis over and over. In the morning the eastern light accentuates the crags and patterns in the rocks and dominates the skyline from many viewpoints along Highway 40. From these reflecting pools a bit further south the mountain doesn’t dominate in the same way but I like the balances that can be found between the peaks and the elements along the shoreline. Later in the morning, I worked the scene with black and white images in mind but with the first light, I was enjoying the splashes of colour.
Green algae under one of the ponds provided a green cast to some of the reflections. I thought the shapes under the water along with the colour were really interesting.
This pond had a floor of stones which was another detail to play with.
With the pink light receding to warm morning sunlight, I liked how the land still in shadow had a cool tone contrasted with the mountain and its reflection.
The morning got bright quickly when I was at a set of reflecting ponds just west of Wedge Pond and the Galatea Trailhead in Kananaskis. I met a fellow Calgarian photographer, Graham McKerrell, along the water’s edge and we watched the most promising cloud slip behind the mountain just a couple of minutes before the sunrise hit the face. The early light was still beautiful on the rock of Mount Kidd and its reflection. I really had fun once the morning sun was well established as I switched from hunting warm light to thinking about the sun and shadows for black and white images as seen here.
(please click on the image to link to a larger, higher resolution version)
These ponds are a beautiful location to welcome the morning, I hope to get out there once more this season.
(please click on any image to go to a higher resolution version)
The morning was cold as I walked down to Wedge Pond on Friday. No frost, but very chilly under the clear skies. I woke early so I was there before the skies had started to brighten. The only sounds were the splash of the occasional fish jumping and bull elk bugling challenges nearby in the forest. It was a special moment to take in. In the darkness the exposures ranged up to five minutes to show the pre-dawn scene as below. The slowly lightening sky to the east reflected on the upper flanks of the mountain.
As the sun approached, the birds started chattering and a few other photographers showed up for the alpen glow and then first light on Mount Kidd. Kananaskis lived up to expectations again. It was lovely to be on the lake’s shore for the morning with the autumn colours coming in.
Following Saturday’s snow storm, we had a beautiful day today. Sunrise came along at 6am sharp this morning and I drove up to Elbow Falls early and met the day there. The snow was still holding onto the trees and rocks so the landscape along the river had a strong winter tone. I was hoping for the early, pink light to reflect off of the clouds stacked above the mountains into this scene. That did not happen, some clouds eastwards blocked the sunlight until the sun was well clear of the horizon. When the sunlight did reach into the valley, it was beautiful.
On the way up to the falls I even had a minute to take a nice photograph of a moose sitting up in her bedded down spot from the quick ending night. A pretty great morning in my photographic book.
I have not been up to Elbow Falls in a couple of months so I went for the sunrise on Sunday. The sky wasn’t too cooperative – the clouds hid behind the K-Country mountains instead of catching the morning light while anchored above them, but there was a skiff of snow from the night before that was a nice element to work in.
With the low water and lack of snow around the waterfall, the rocks took center stage and looked beautiful.
Here the snow can be seen in the branches and dusting the rocks. I enjoyed the palette of colors and the softening effect, here and there, of the snow in these scenes.
When the sun first cleared the eastern ridges, it was softened by a bit of haze and the veins of the falls seemed to glow under this gentle light.
A short time later it rose above the haze and this was the last image I made with the sunlight still playing really well with this landscape.
It was another good morning at Elbow Falls. One of many special places in Kananaskis and a favourite place for me to spend time. I created a small gallery on my website from this morning which includes these images and a few more, check them out if you are interested.
After following the deer around for a little while, I walked back to the car and continued driving along the back roads that skirt between West Bragg Creek and Kananaskis. I went by a thicket beside a pasture thinking I would photograph the horses there for a few minutes. Instead, I found a moose stripping branches near the road.
She watched me for a minute, then continued moving through the meadow snacking along the way.
She wandered towards the frozen creek and then turned west and leapt over a fence before crossing the road and meandering into the edge of the forest where I lost sight of her.
Yesterday, I was hiking in Kananaskis Country, west of Bragg Creek, morning along a trail that winds through the forest. The trees are often well spaced out and allow a lot of streaming sunlight to reach down. The highlight of the trek was finding a small herd of White-tailed Deer that were moving slowly towards the hills.
I stepped off the trail and shadowed their progress for a few minutes. I waited for one deer to step into a shaft of light and then tried to create an interesting image.
There were a couple occasions where everything lined up and I got close to what was in my head. In these pictures, I like the sense of the forest and the magic of sunlight.
I was enjoying the stroll in the woods when I was alone, save for the birdsong and angry squirrel reports, but crossing paths with these deer made it a very memorable day.
The storm blew over in waves as I trekked around the Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes in the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park yesterday. Obscuring the far shoreline first, then moving across the ice and rolling over me. This cycle repeated at both locations and allowed for some moody landscape photographs.
At the Lower Kananaskis there was a stretch of open water below the control station which manages the flow between the two lakes. The patterns along the edge of the ice worked nicely with the distant lines in the forests and mountains.
Away from the water’s edge there was a man ice fishing on the lake. I made this one image of him standing over his fishing hole – the compression of the lens telephoto lens makes him look quite close to the edge but he seemed a safe distance.
Upper Kananaskis Lake is completely frozen over now. The blizzard was at its height when I was there so I waited between waves where I could see across the lake to the rock island and silhouettes of the peaks looming over the west edge of the lake.
Before the sun rose yesterday, I was driving in West Bragg Creek on one of the dirt roads that skirts Kananaskis. Looking for wildlife, I noticed a moose in the trees.
I stopped and after a few minutes she walked towards me and into the clearing, then I noticed the calf come out of the forest as well.
There were some branches that she had her eye on and they both stared at me for a minute and then wandered towards the stand for breakfast. They both appeared to be in good health, the late winter has helped the grazing animals with a little more time to store food.
A chilly morning in West Bragg Creek gilded all the tall grass and tree boughs with hoar frost emphasizing the hold winter now has on Kananaskis Country. I wandered around a few trails before finding this muscular stag walking steadily through a field.
He watched me closely for a minute, pausing to check me over, before carrying on through the snow parallel to the path before crossing and bounding up the hill into the forest.
I encountered a second buck as I was heading back to Bragg Creek. I was driving on Township Road 232 and he was near the fenceline, partially obscured by a stand of reed-like branches. I was running a bit late and he seemed anxious so I only stayed for a minute to get this image before heading on my way.
I spent three hours photographing four Grizzly bears in the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park on Sunday morning. My parents were hiking there the day before and had seen the small troop digging up a meadow to get at small roots in the soil. I followed their directions and found the mother with her two cubs and a lone sow. The mother was protective of her cubs and the other bear kept her distance.
A couple of times mother bear chased the other one away either because she had strayed too close or momma wanted to graze in the loner’s spot. I have to say, watching a bear run is incredible. It is a shuffling gallop that doesn’t look fast but when you look at the ground covered you understand exactly how fast bears are. One of the charges sent the lone bear running towards me which got the adrenalin going. The image of the lone bear running away below is a bit blurry as the light was pretty soft but it illustrates some of the power these animals carry in their movements (and look at those claws).
The meadow is a narrow strip about two hundred meters wide which is lined with trees on both sides. I stayed along the forest’s edge but made sure the bears knew I was there when I was more than a few hundred meters away. I took almost an hour to get to my final photographing spot. Trying to watch for any signs of agitation, particularly from the mother. She looked my way a couple of times but did not stop grazing other than to chase the other bear. The cubs noticed me too but went back to their digging without any concerns.
The lone female seemed curious for the first few minutes but then settled back to the big dig. She would watch me whenever I moved but once I set up in a new spot, she would tend to her hunger. By mid-morning I was close enough to see their faces clearly through my lens but I was wishing I had longer glass than my 300mm lens and extender. A 500mm lens would have been perfect but no complaints.
The berries were late this year and I wonder if these roots are a fallback option that the bears look to late in the season to top off their bellies before hibernating. I left them as I found them, shuffling around and burying their heads in the piles of dirt, and headed back up the trail around noon.
Last weekend I was back on the shoreline of Wedge Pond in Kananaskis waiting for sunrise. This time there were clouds in the sky and fog shrouds running across the water. The early light on Mount Kidd was obscured but there were many interesting pieces to play with, near and far, so I wasn’t disappointed with the misty view of the red light descending down the mountainside.
Fall has been really wonderful this year – fairly warm, great color in the trees, no snow below the peaks and an absence of strong winds to blow the leaves off. I hope to get in a couple more landscape sessions before we move into winter.
I have been spending a fair amount of time in Kananaskis Country as autumn has taken hold across the Rockies in Southern Alberta. A couple of mornings I have spent daybreak on the shoreline of Wedge Pond just off Highway 40 a few kilometers south of the Nakiska Ski Resort. Before the sun rises high enough to hit Mount Kidd’s ridges, the whole mountain glows red in the pre-dawn light.
After only a couple of minutes, the sunlight reaches over The Wedge and Mt. McDougal to Kidd and then it quickly runs down the mountainside as the sun climbs into the sky.
The image above with the sun drawing a red band along the top of the mountain was from September 5th where all the trees skirting the pond were still in summer green. The first two images were taken just under three weeks later. A couple of cool days got the seasonal change kickstarted and the transformation to yellow and orange was complete in just a few days.
My wife and I took the children for a morning drive along Highway 40 through Kananaskis this morning. This rainbow followed us in from the edge of the Bow Valley Parkway into Kananaskis and along the peaks of Heart Mountain, Grant McEwan Pea and Mt. Lorette. With the clearing storm clouds still dark the rainbow really stood out against the sky.
Following on from my encounter with the moose calf and mother, I drove further along the Highwood Pass section of Highway 40 in Kananaskis and saw this mother grizzly bear leading her two cubs along the forest’s edge parallel to the road.
The color of these bears is fantastic. Blond is not exceptionally rare but is still striking to see. I stayed up on the road and watched them move swiftly through the dense underbrush before crossing the pavement and disappearing down into the valley.
I hope their momma can guide these two cubs into adulthood avoiding the dangers of the road and the rails that have impacted the grizzly population in the Rockies. They are incredible animals.
I was in Kananaskis for the sunrise on Mount Kidd above Wedge Pond on the weekend. I finished the landscape photography by 7:30 and then headed along Highway 40 up towards the Highwood Pass to enjoy the beautiful drive and keep an eye out for wildlife. Just after the summit this cow and her calf were grazing on the edge of the forest.
I pulled over and stayed with them for about half an hour. One of the beautiful things of Kananaskis is that it has nowhere near the volume of traffic as Alberta’s neighbouring National Parks. There are rarely bear jams on the road and when you find wildlife, there isn’t the frenzy of crowds agitating the animals. So, with these two beautiful moose, I was able to share time and enjoy watching them.
Earlier at Wedge Pond, I met a fellow photographer, Chuck Kling, visiting from Montreal with his wife. We met again at these moose and it was fun to share that moment. They come to photograph wildlife in Alberta frequently, a good reminder how nice it is to live in these parts.
All along High,way 40 which runs through the heart of Kananaskis and winds through spectacular scenery, there are Columbia ground squirrels (Urocitellus columbianus) scurrying around. They are pretty low on the food chain so they are wary critters. When there is any noise or motion approaching they stand upright and assess the danger. When something gets too close, they chirp out a warning and then dive for one of the holes connecting to their hillside tunnel complex.
This little guy watched me from his mound above the pullout while I was loading up for a hike near the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park entrance. I was happy to have this little creature stand for a short portrait session.
Kayaking is a sport I’ve always been interested in. On the weekend, my friend Jeff and I met up with a team of kayakers at Canoe Meadows on the Kananaskis River. We had arranged with their coach to meet the team during one of their training sessions and photograph them while they practiced on the water.
The fast pace of the downstream sections provided a nice opportunity to drag the shutter and abstract the action a little.