This storm front came marching down out of the Rockies past Canmore and swept out on to the Prairie on Friday. We have had a number of these big storms over the summer which has afforded a few really great landscape photographic opportunities.
I made this image while stopped on the Springbank overpass on the Trans Canada highway west of Calgary where the road climbs up towards the mountains.
I previously posted about the Tsuu T’ina Nation’s Annual Pow Wow and Rodeo event that I attended in July. Now that we are almost into September, I took some time to work through the stack of images that I made while I was at the Pow Wow. There were great characters, incredibly ornate outfits and a wonderful cacophony of color – it really was a lot of fun for everyone. For photographers, there was a lot to work with and the opportunity to make some interesting, beautiful photographs.
I choose two main types of images that I wanted to make. For one, I wanted to get sharp images of the regalia and the people. Beyond documenting the event, I wanted to show some of the emotion and purpose that the people put into their dancing. With the second type of images I wanted to convey the motion of the event. All of the dancers moved in a clockwise direction around the central supports of the Beaver Dome. There were upwards of a couple of hundred children and adults moving around the circle and within this path, performing their particular dance. The swirls of color grabbed attention as the dancers and their dancing outfits traced out their stories in response to the drum circles and chanting. I started out at floor level using a wide angle lens (Canon 17-40 F/4) to be in the middle of the scene and then went up to the sound booth, had a good chat with Jim a sound technician from Hobbema, and spent much of the afternoon using a longer lens (Canon 70-200 and 300 IS) from up there. I wanted to get higher so that I could shoot downwards and keep the bright daylight outside from spilling into my shots. The Beaver Dome is an open sided building so during a sunny day, the outer edges show up as very bright, very wide horizontal patches of white in the background of your images if you are at ground level and facing outwards. Going higher, allowed me to have other dancers, the carpet and the crowd in the background instead. Adjusting the aperture, I was able to choose whether to have these background elements in focus or blurred into abstract.
The two types of images required two different techniques. For the sharp images of the people, I used short exposures with a high ISO to freeze the action and minimize any blurring. With the relatively dark lighting inside this often worked out to 1/40 second and 1/80 second at F/4 with an ISO 800. I put up the shutter speed to 1/160 and 1/200 a few times just to make sure I had sharp images in the bank but, back at the computer, I have been happy with a number of the relatively slower shots that allowed more light in so the colors could really pop as they did when I was there.
Conversely, longer exposures To capture the motion, ended up being between 1/4 and 1/15 seconds using an ISO range of 100-400. I kept my aperture mostly locked at F/4 as it was working to separate individuals from the surrounding crowd and distracting background elements while keeping most or all of the person and their regalia in focus.
July seemed to speed by this summer, I almost don’t believe we’re half way through August already.
Looking back at last month, here are my favourite photographs.
A simple composition just to let this beautiful flower shine. I wanted to position the second flower to provide balance and then chose to use an aperture that would blur everything but the front flower. I like the abstract repetition and think that the light green highlights in the background provide the visual interest I was trying to capture to allow the image to hold the eye a little longer.
The clouds softened the sunlight so I had great illumination on the greenery in the backyard and on the daisies. A quiet afternoon with the kids on the deck.
The Tsuu T’ina Nation’s reserve lands run on both sides of Highway 22x, The Cowboy Trail, as you approach Bragg Creek from the east. Every year, the band holds a Rodeo and Pow Wow in July at their Beaverdome and rodeo grounds across the road from the Redwood Meadows Golf Course.
The event is attended by nations from all across North America. The rodeo is a major pull for competitors and fans alike. Drawing on a rich history of horsemanship and true cowboy toughness, these men and women put on an exciting, unpredictable and truly enjoyable show.
Here is a sequence showing a great ride ending with a hard, hard landing…
… I spoke to this gentleman afterwards where he had missed a full ride by less than a second. He told me he almost had him and all he wanted to do was get back on tomorrow. Awesome! Pretty mean looking horse too.
I stayed late on Saturday night, with the sun leaving us in twilight, a moon drifting higher in the east and the bulls seeming to gain the upper hand over the would be riders. It was a relief at the end, as there were a couple of bad tramples. There may have been a couple of broken bones but not many moans. It has been said how tough cowboys are and watching a bull stomp on a rider’s knee or chest, that comes to light in the aftermath.
The breath holding eased as the last of the riders made their way off the dirt. Giving room for the beauty of the area and a great sporting event to take back center stage in the minds of the crowd as we shuffled out of the grandstands.
I already can’t wait for next year’s rodeo (July 22-24). If you can make it, you will have a great time and meet some wonderful people.
This great blue heron returns to this small lake on the eastern edge of Kananaskis near Bragg Creek. The great blue is the largest heron in North America. They can stand over 4 feet tall with a wingspan just shy of 7 feet. Very graceful to watch in flight and their takeoffs and landings are performances.
This year it has a mate so I’m keeping my eye out for young ones. It would be great to see this pair grow to be a small rookery in the next couple of years.
I first photographed these birds in Nanoose Bay on Vancouver Island. I still think it is special every time I see them right near my home.
The cloudy mornings over the weekend created very even, diffused light around the backroads of West Bragg Creek. I was out with the family enjoying the scenery and we came across a lot of whitetail deer. Some young lone males, mothers with one or two babies and a few older groups of twos and threes.
Very nice light to photograph these beautiful animals in. They and their cousins, the mule deer, are very common around Bragg Creek but I can’t imagine getting tired of seeing them.
This year the Stampede started its 10 day run with a lot of cold, wet weather. I made it down to the grounds with my good friend Dan Pichette on the Thursday before the big final weekend. We picked a good night as it was warm, there was a great sky in the evening and the grounds were busy but not packed.
We brought the tripods for the purpose of playing with long exposures on the lights of the rides, games and kiosks around the fairgrounds. Here is some of the work I came home with. Dan made some dynamite images and I’m bugging him to let me throw a couple of his images up here too. Not yet, but maybe soon.
I always have a lot of fun at the Stampede whether it’s watching the rodeo, checking out the art exhibit, listening the outdoor concerts or roaming the fair.
When I’m down there with a camera, I have yet to not get inspired by all of the commotion and excitement.
Right across Highway 22 from my house is the location of the annual Tsuu T’ina nation’s Rodeo and Pow Wow. What an incredible event to have in the Bragg Creek area.
Yesterday, I spent the day on the grounds photographing the Pow Wow Grand Entrance and then the evening’s rodeo events. The people working, competing, dancing and enjoying these events were great to talk to and extended great warmth and friendliness to me. I feel very honoured to have been able to enjoy these festivities with our local Tsuu T’ina band members and the people from other nations all across North America.
I will have more photo essays up but wanted to get a quick post up with images from the Grand Entrance. This ceremony sees all of the first nation people who are dancing in the Pow Wow enter into the Beaver Lodge. This is an large pyramid open all sides with a two tiered roof sloping upwards resembling a beaver lodge in a general sense. Moving in a steady procession, the center of the lodge is soon completely packed as men and women, boys and girls of all ages circle around the main column in the middle. Easily a couple of hundred dancers pulsed inside at the height of the ceremony.
They were carried onwards, dancing with little break for up to half an hour, by the drumming circles from different nations attending. The drums and accompanying singing was incredible, powerful and charged the atmosphere. It was a mesmerizing scene to be in, around and a part of.
Here are a few more images from my first look through the images I made (click on the photographs to see larger images).
As a footnote, Tsuu T’ina means beaver in their language although I do not yet know how they came to be called by the name. Much to learn about my neighbours across the road, I better find time to do so as I’m very interested.
Darwin Wiggett and Samantha Chrysanthou led a group of photographers to the Bar U Ranch historical site just west of Longview, Alberta. This was one of 1111 groups comprised of over 33,500 photographers participating in Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photowalk. It was fun to be a part of the Bar U group and neat to be involved with such a huge international group.
I had not wandered through Bar U previously and was interested to see what subjects would pull my attention. The ranch is set up in the style of its heydays when it was one of the largest ranching operations in North America. That puts the time at roughly 1882 – 1925. There are period costumes, decorations, equipment and sundry items – all of which lend themselves easily to becoming a photograph.
I really enjoyed the walk, meeting some of the other photographers, sharing a laugh and scouring around for images to make.
Thanks to Samantha and Darwin for a smooth operation and a fun walk.
On Sunday afternoon, I was down at the Calgary Stampede photographing the rodeo finals.
Thanks to a conversation with the media accreditation manager at the Stampede along with a call to, and a letter from, Roy Anstey, I was able to get media credentials for the event. Roy is the editor of the Bragg About the Creek magazine that I have been working with for a few issues now. Armed with the media pass, I was able to tour the stocks before the rodeo started where the animals were waiting to march into the fray.
When the rodeo got underway, the events came shotgun style as the cowboys and cowgirls competed to get into the final round. The action was incredible and I have to say no one takes a bigger beating in sports than the bull and bareback riders.
Fred Whitfield as he jumps off his horse to pick up the calf and time it up. Whitfield, a Texan from Hockley, tied Matt Shiozawa in the final with a 7.4 second run. They rode one more time to determine the winner with Shiozawa taking this hotly contested tie down roping event.
Jim Berry from Rocky Mountain House, AB riding Knife Money in the qualifying round. Berry placed 3rd overall.
Lindsay Sears riding hard for the finish line. The Nanton, Alberta barrel racer finished 2nd with a 17.31 second ride, missing 1st by 0.06 seconds!
After a couple of hours of hard riding, the finals were set for what the announcer billed as the “Richest Hour in Rodeo”. As each winner of the saddle bronc, barrel racing, bareback, bullriding, steer wrestling and tie down roping takes home $100,000. Second nabs $25,000 with third at $15,000 and fourth walking (or limping) away with $10,000 . The crowd was roaring, thunder clouds were looming off to the south and the animals were fired up. When the men and women started performing the energy in the whole place exploded. Every event was close and they kept coming with only a short break for the winner before the next group got started. It might have been a bit longer than an hour when it was all over but it felt like five minutes.
Boxholm, Iowa’s Wade Sundell rode Lynx Mountain for a 90.50 in the qualifier. Here Sundell is just out of the gate riding Mata Fact to an 88.50 and title in the championship round of the Saddle Bronc event.
Here Duncan Douglas “dismounts” from Wranglers Deja Vue after completing 8 seconds astride the beast. Douglas, hailing from Alvin, Texas, won the Bull Riding event by one point over Beau Hill with an 88.0 on this ride.
What a great event! I will be going to some of the local, feeder rodeos around Southern Alberta through the summer and I can’t wait for next year’s Stampede. I had a great time working at this event and can’t believe how much fun it is shooting from the rails.
When the Prairies get wet it is usually due to some pretty impressive storms. The first couple of weeks of July have been heavy with rain which seems to be about a month later than the last couple of years. The weather may not lend itself to days on the beach, it makes for some great photographic possibilities. With the wet comes saturated colors and, using a polarizer to cut the glare, you can create images that almost glow. The dark skies reveal the texture within the clouds and make beautiful backgrounds to landscape photographs.
I felt a bit bad watching these cows inside my car as the window and their backs took the brunt of the wind and rain.
So, I ventured out to get a couple of portraits and was rewarded with stern glares from the models and raindrops on the lens.
I liked this fellow’s optimism with the shorts. Prudence must have taken hold as he walked out the door with the toque and the long sleeve shirt.
A view of the Trans-Canada Highway looking westward as it disappears into the storm. Photograph made from the Springbank overpass just outside of Calgary.