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.
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.
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.
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.
I went out for a long walk in Kananaskis this morning. Along an old road I hadn’t traveled on before, I was kept company by the heavy snow falling and a lone raven that croaked as I was returning to the trailhead. I stopped for a few minutes and heard another raven further down the valley that was talking with “my” raven. This one flew off in that direction and I carried on.
With fresh snow on the ground, I went back up to Elbow Falls to see how the valley would look in a return to winter clothing. I was there only a week ago and the change, beyond the cold, was significant. I love snow-covered landscapes so I found this visit to Kananaskis to be a very beautiful one. I think spring is coming soon but when winter is this pretty, I don’t mind a little delay.
I went up to Elbow Falls last weekend and ice-covered all but a sliver of the river and most of the waterfall too. With the warm days since then, I wanted to see how this beautiful spot looked now. Much of the snow and ice has melted, opening the waterway and showing another side of Kananaskis. Spring may be around the corner.
Winter is beginning to win the hearts and minds of the mountains in Kananaskis Country. After the sunrise at Wedge Pond, I hiked around the Upper Kananaskis Lake for a little while. There are some lovely yellows and golds in the trees reaching up along the lower flanks. With a few days of cool weather the patches of snow have knitted together and trekked down the slopes to meet, and pass through, the forest.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 17-40mm lens (at 17mm): 13 seconds at f/22 on ISO 400
With most of the aspens having turned gold in the lower reaches of Kananaskis Country around Bragg Creek, I was excited to get up to Wedge Pond to see how the colours were around the water and up towards Mount Kidd. It was a cloudy morning but for a few minutes at dawn the sun broke through in a couple of places. A strange, soft purple-pink glow illuminated the whole scene fleetingly. I doubt I will ever get tired of visiting this place.
I was up in Kananaskis a few days ago to explore the recently opened stretch of Highway 40 up to the Highwood Pass. Leaving home in the dark, I arrived at Wedge Pond just as light was creeping into the eastern edge of the sky.
We had several days of rain preceding this visit so I was unsure what the weather would be like in the mountains. The reports called for partly sunny with showers. From experience, that can mean anything from empty blue skies to heavy, wet gray clouds. I don’t mind either so I was happy to head up and find out. That morning the mist was swirling above the pond and rising up to meet the low hanging clouds that were stuffed into the valley. I trotted down to the water’s edge and moved along keeping an eye on Mount Kidd. The mountain catches the early pre-dawn Alpen glow and can be spectacular right through sunrise. The view over Wedge and up to Kidd whispered of something good that might come and I was happy to move around, watching and waiting.
Seven minutes later, pink light was hitting a few of the higher clouds. The lower clouds were breaking up and it seemed like a clear view of the mountain was coming forward.
It didn’t – the clean view was swallowed up by the clouds as the rich colours on Mount Kidd came in. I didn’t mind at all as a few fleeting openings afforded beautiful views of one or two of the peaks for the next couple of minutes.
I have not had such a dynamic encounter with the weather up at Wedge Pond and I had a great time. It was fun to play around with the moodiness under the clouds balanced (and thrown out of balance) with the sunrise opening above. I’m enjoying the late resurgence of summer we are enjoying but I found myself looking forward to the fall colours that always look so wonderful in this special place. I will be there and would be very happy if these clouds returned then too.
Since the floods, I have been eager to drive up Highway 66 which runs in and out of the valleys where the Elbow River unwinds out of the mountains. A few weeks ago, the road reopened and I have been back into this quieter side of Kananaskis Country a couple of times since. On the first trip I went straight to Elbow Falls to see what remained. Rumours through June and July ranged from the Elbow Falls being reduced to a set of rapids through to vast swathes of land disappearing, replaced by river rock spread over the lost forest area. The former is not true – the falls remain, as seen in the image here from that first visit after the floods, and are still beautiful. The latter is very true in many places – many favourite spots, including the winding river path above the falls, have been drastically reshaped.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 17-40mm lens at 17mm: 2 seconds at f/22 on ISO 200
I have spent a fair bit of time hiking and travelling around Kananaskis Country. That said, I have only seen a small amount of its beautiful landscape. It is always wonderful to find a new place. On the weekend, I was revisiting a few favourite spots that I had not been able to see since the flood. Along the drive between two such spots, up Highway 66, the morning mists and fog were slowly rising up in the warming air in a small meadow I have passed by many times but never explored. I stopped this time for a few minutes to photograph the light and shadows playing with one another. There was a roar of water nearby but it was hidden deeper into the forest and I had another spot on my mind so I headed on.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 70-200mm lens at 81mm: 1/400th of a second at f/11 on ISO 400
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 70-200mm lens at 135mm: 1/200th of a second at f/11 on ISO 400
On my return past the same place an hour later, I pulled off and set out for a little exploration. I found a trail that led down from the meadow and into the woods. Following that for a few minutes, I walked up to the top of this small waterfall. It was the source of the roaring heard earlier. The water drops only a few metres but it falls into a narrow bowl of rock which intensifies the sound significantly.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 17-40mm lens at 17mm: 6 seconds at f/22 on ISO 50
A bit of mountain goating saw me step and then jump down into the bowl. Water vapour was heavy in the air which played a little havoc with the front of my lens but it was nothing a couple of cloths couldn’t handle over the time I was down there. I stayed for more than an hour – at one point just sitting down and enjoying this wonderful little place.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 17-40mm lens at 23mm: 5 seconds at f/22 on ISO 50
The stream is only a metre wide above and below the falls. At the base, the pool opens up to a few metres across. There were some signs of recent high water activity but it seems the flow was not enough to damage the trees and bushes that overhang the channel.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 17-40mm lens at 19mm: 2 seconds at f/16 on ISO 50
I believe this stream falls into the Elbow River but I’m not sure if it, or this waterfall, have their own names. I have to find out from a few of the locals who know Kananaskis Country in a way I hope to some day far down my path.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 17-40mm lens at 39mm: 5 seconds at f/22 on ISO 200
So, for me at least, this waterfall remains unnamed. In truth, I like it that way for now. I really enjoyed that narrow wedge of rock and water below the forest and will be returning there soon.