Elbow Falls in winter’s clothing

Winter sunrise at Elbow Falls - © Christopher Martin-4076

We have had a few stormy blasts throughout November and the snow seems to be intent on sticking around right now.  With the beauty of the winter landscape running through my head, I went up to Elbow Falls in Kananaskis early one morning to catch the sunrise.

WINTER DAWN AT ELBOW FALLS - © Christopher Martin-4088

It turned out to be a beautiful dawn matched only by the tranquility I was able to enjoy sharing the waterfall with the resident Dippers (small birds not swimmers!) and the rushing water.

WINTER DAWN AT ELBOW FALLS - © Christopher Martin-4106

Autumn Whiskey Jack

Autumn Whiskey Jack - © Christopher Martin-1363-2
I love Gray Jays, also called Whiskey Jacks, and found a pair foraging for stray sides on a path in Kananaskis on the weekend.  You will almost never see a lone jay, they are always found in a pair – I like that.  Here, I caught this little one in mid-flight as it flew off a branch to the ground.

Angling on Wedge Pond

Angling in Wedge Pond - © Christopher Martin-0764

I visited Wedge Pond to check on the fall colors and their reflection in the water.  The larch and aspen in Kananaskis now have their leaves falling but a week ago the golds were still at their best.  Among the rippled mirror on the pond’s surface, there was a fisherman fly casting from a float.  Seemed like a relaxing way to spend an afternoon.

Angling in Wedge Pond - © Christopher Martin-0755

Angling in Wedge Pond - © Christopher Martin-0747

Sarrail Falls – a waterfall in the woods

Sarrail Falls in Kananaskis - © Christopher Martin-0634

The Sarrail Falls that spill across several terraces before emptying into the Upper Kananaskis Lake is a beautiful stretch of water surrounded by heavy forest in the steep hillside of Mount Sarrail’s lower slopes.  The path to this waterfall starts at the lake’s eastern parking lot and is set just above the shoreline.  It is a comfortable trail that is about 1-1.15 km to this feature but carries on around the entire lake.  I had planned to complete the loop but spent almost two hours watching, photographing, enjoying and studying the waterfall instead.

Sarrail Falls in Kananaskis - © Christopher Martin-0727

The 2013 flood hit this creek heavily destroying the bridge as well as sending tree trunks and boulders cascading down.  These are still found perched, lodged or lying nearby all along the water’s path.  I found a beauty in these that added to the overall scene and suggested to me the cycles of birth, growth and death as well as of constant change.  Along with the varying crescendos of the water’s orchestra, I found myself enjoying some deep thoughts and the time to chew on them – a luxurious gift to allow oneself!

Sarrail Falls in Kananaskis - © Christopher Martin-0665

At the end, with the morning moving quickly towards noon, I chose the short walk back and the lunch I had waiting for me.

An autumn morning reflected in Upper Kananaskis Lake

Upper Kananaskis Lake - © Christopher Martin-0586

I started a great day in Kananaskis earlier this weekend walking along the shoreline of the Upper Kananaskis Lake in the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.  At sunrise I was photographing a pair of moose, a mother and her calf, in a meadow and I ended up spending most of the morning at the Sarrail Falls.  However, when I parked near the boat launch at the lake, the soft light, subtle autumn accents, calm water and brilliant reflection of the mountains in the water mesmerized me for several minutes.  I had the lake to myself for a little while and enjoyed the beauty immensely.

Morning reflected in Upper Kananaskis Lake - © Christopher Martin-0593

Coyote in Kananaskis

Kananaskis Coyote - © Christopher Martin-9379

This coyote trotted in front of us and then slipped into forest.  I kept my lens on her and she was curious enough to steal a quick look our way when she was in a small open space.  We were spending our anniversary in Kananaskis and it was a nice moment to include in “our” day.

Please note that I took artistic license with this image and desaturated the colour in the forest around the coyote. The woods in Kananaskis are not black and shades of grey.  For reference, the original image is included below.

Kananaskis Coyote - © Christopher Martin-9379-2


Dawn at Elbow Falls

Elbow Falls Dawn - © Christopher Martin-9682-2

The early light worked well with a few interesting clouds hanging above Elbow Falls on the day I was up there this weekend.  The soft pink ahead of sunrise shared the sky with the waning full moon early.  As the clouds turned to a deep peach color I moved just above the waterfall.  From there the reflections of colour on the excited water were beautiful and I watched the morning open up.

Elbow Falls Dawn - © Christopher Martin-9699-1

Elbow Falls Dawn - © Christopher Martin-9722


Elbow Falls under an alpen glow

Elbow Falls under an alpen glow - © Christopher Martin-1388

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.

Elbow Falls - water through the rocks - © Christopher Martin-1379-2


Kananaskis Grizzly Bear 151

Kananaskis Grizzly 151 - © Christopher Martin-1060

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.

Kananaskis Grizzly 151 - © Christopher Martin-0256

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.

Kananaskis Grizzly 151 - © Christopher Martin-1025

Kananaskis Grizzly 151 - © Christopher Martin-0501

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.

Kananaskis Grizzly 151 - © Christopher Martin-0941

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.

 Kananaskis Grizzly 151 - © Christopher Martin-1054

Kananaskis Grizzly 151 - © Christopher Martin-4719

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.

Kananaskis Grizzly 151 - © Christopher Martin-1075

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.

Kananaskis Grizzly 151 - © Christopher Martin-1137

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.

Kananaskis Grizzly 151 - © Christopher Martin-1150




Wedge Pond Mists

Wedge Pond Mists - © Christopher Martin-0024

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.

Wedge Pond Mists - © Christopher Martin-9959

Wedge Pond Mists - © Christopher Martin-9974

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.

Wedge Pond Mists - © Christopher Martin-0091

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.

Wedge Pond Mists - © Christopher Martin-0124


Mother and calf: Moose in Kananaskis

Mom and calf - 2014 © Christopher Martin
In early April I went into Kananaskis along Highway 66 from Bragg Creek.  I was late getting out of bed and did not leave myself enough time to set up for a sunrise shoot.  I went for a short hike around Elbow Falls but returned to my car pretty quickly.  Heading back, I was scouring the hillsides and trees for wildlife.  I was lucky to catch this female just as she was stepping out of the forest.  The sun hadn’t cleared the mountains across the Elbow River so the moose was not yet in the sunlight.  I decided to set my camera up on my tripod and wait for a few minutes.

Funny face - 2014 © Christopher Martin
When the sun rose over the hill, the light was soft and warm so I was quite happy to sit quietly and watch as she moved around.

A little hidden - 2014 © Christopher Martin
Patience often pays off and it was true on this occasion.  After at least fifteen minutes of watching the moose casually grazing along the slope, I heard a couple of sticks break near where she had come out from the trees before.  A couple of minutes after that, a calf came out onto the hillside.

Forest watcher - 2014 © Christopher Martin
The young moose watched me with a bit of apprehension for a minute, but after a few checks with mom, started grazing and wandering around the scrub brush.

Got stick? - 2014 © Christopher Martin
The pair dined for a while occasionally eating together with mom always watchful as cars passed by or a strange sound came to her ears.  They were calm and it was special to be able to watch them.  I hope the buds, leaves and shoots start to grow soon so their rather austere winter diet is replaced.

Breakfast together - 2014 © Christopher Martin

A blizzard at Elbow Falls

Elbow Falls - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 24-105mm lens at 65mm: 2.5 seconds at f/16 on ISO 200

I went back to Elbow Falls for the third time in the last couple of weeks.  With the snowstorm that blew in on the weekend, I was drawn back to see another face to the area.  Heavy snowflakes had piled up in the trees and across the rocks with more falling rapidly when I was up there.  A slip on the ice was my payment for passage but I liked the scene I slid into.  The falling snow gave the trees a charcoal sketched look while the rocks and water in the river had texture and character that seemed to suit black and white processing.


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