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Covering Shwe Dagon in gold

Gilding Shwe Dagon - © Christopher Martin-2895

The Shwedagon Zedi Daw is a nexus point for Myanmar’s Buddhists.  It’s history goes back more than 2600 years and it is an amazing place of humanity, faith and spirituality.  The main stupa is sheathed in gold foil as are many of the parapets and other buildings on the grounds.  I went there twice when I visited Myanmar in 2010 and think I could return many more times and always find new things catching my eye.  On my second visit, I watched these workers gilding a new, or maybe restored, tower.  It was a hot day and while one gentleman found a ball cap to be sufficient protection, the other preferred a more encompassing head cover.  This was detailed work and they were attentive to the task at hand.  I had to wait a little while until one of them looked up from the tower and glanced out over the crowds walking around Shew Dagon.

A Gila Woodpecker in Los Cabos

2013 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 70-200 lens and 1.4x extender at 280mm: 1/5000 of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 800

When my wife and I went to Cabo San Lucas last December I was lucky to find this Gila Woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis) in a stand of cacti during a morning walk.  I had noticed the hole in this cactus and was looking on when this one flew in.  It poked its head out a couple of times before heading off again.  I carried on and saw it flying around a couple more times when I came back that way near the end of my stroll.

Elbow Falls Dipper

American Dipper - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm lens: 1/640 of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600

I went up to Elbow Falls last weekend for the sunrise but I stayed for the American Dippers (Cinclus mexicanus).

Winter Dipper - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DII + 70-200mm lens: 1/1000 of a second at f/8 on ISO 1000

I love watching these aquatically adept birds stalking, diving and swimming in the middle of the rapids.  On the last visit to the waterfall, there were three Dippers flitting about moving between the bottom of the waterfall and the rocks at the top.

Patience - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm lens: 1/640 of a second at f/4 on ISO 4000

An uphill battle - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm lens: 1/1000 of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600

Splashing around - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm lens: 1/1250 of a second at f/4 on ISO 2500

They chased each other down river a couple of times but spent most of their time fishing alone.  On a quiet morning in Kananaskis, it was nice to spend my time watching them.

Dipper Portraiture - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm lens: 1/640 of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600

Let's have a look - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 500mm lens: 1/640 of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600

A calm morning at Elbow Falls

First light above Elbow Falls - 2014 © Christopher Martin

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.

Wind in the mountains

 Wind in the mountains - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII + 300mm f/4 lens: 1/4000th of a second at f/11 on ISO 400

The winds that came with the weather change last weekend were heavy when I left my home in Bragg Creek for the Banff National Park in the morning.  When I got into the mountains, the Bow Valley was pretty calm but higher up on the slopes, the snow was blowing around in opaque sheets while the clouds raced by above.  Watching from the Vermillion Lakes shoreline, I was mesmerized by the view of Mount Rundle.  The sun catching the wispy snow drawn out over the slopes before fraying into the shadow as it flew over the cliffs was beautiful to watch.

A Winter Weasel

Stoat Alert - 2014 © Christopher Martin

This Ermine, a short-tailed weasel in its winter coat, was bounding in the snow hunting.  They are so quick that a sharp image can be a challenge.  The bright day and relatively uncluttered scene helped the auto focus and I nabbed a couple of shots before it skipped into deeper brush and out of sight.

Winter Weasel - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Three years ago, we had a weasel that set up for a couple of months in a woodpile in our backyard.  I haven’t seen one since then so it was great fun to have a short encounter again.

Snow bound - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Just pecking away

Picoides villosus - 2014 © Christopher Martin

One of our resident woodpeckers was drumming away for a good part of the afternoon a few days ago.  Several Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers have wintered near our home this year.

2014 © Christopher Martin

The long bill of the Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus) was put to good use by this fellow.  He used it to his advantage pecking away at the bark.  I’m not sure if it was idle practice or if, despite the cool temperatures, there were insects to be had.

2014 © Christopher Martin

With warmer temperatures coming back this weekend, I hope to see them out pecking again.

Ice and Snow: lines and shadows

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The waves of mild temperatures then bitter cold that have been winter’s pattern this year have played havoc with the ice.

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Along the Elbow River the once smooth sheets of water frozen layer on layer, have buckled and split along the channel.

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The temperature went into free fall yesterday but the blue skies pulled me outside this morning. Near the edge of the ice down the Elbow I spent some time photographing the forms created by the blanket of snow, broken ice cover, and the long shadows of winter.

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Aurora Borealis over the Elbow River

Aurora over the Elbow - 2014 © Christopher MartinAurora over the Elbow
Canon 5DIII + 24mm f/1.4 lens: 2.5 seconds at f/1.6 on ISO 1600

The Northern Lights came to life over my home in Redwood Meadows a couple of nights ago.  I threw on some winter gear and walked down to the Elbow River with my camera and tripod.  The moon was waning but was close to full and lit up the snow and ice so my headlamp wasn’t needed.  I went out on the ice and watched the Aurora ripple across the northern quarter of the sky.  It was a cold and very late show.  And I loved it.

Note: Click on any photograph to open a higher resolution version of the image.

Aurora fire - 2014 © Christopher MartinNorthern Lights on ice
Canon 5DIII + 24mm f/1.4 lens: 1.6 seconds at f/2.5 on ISO 1600

 

Aurora Flare - 2014 © Christopher MartinAurora Flare
Canon 5DIII + 24mm f/1.4 lens: 4 seconds at f/2.5 on ISO 1600

The colors dimmed after an hour or so and I could barely make out the lights.  The camera could still resolve them and I liked the subtle color in one of the last images from the evening.

Fading Aurora - 2014 © Christopher MartinFading lights
Canon 5DIII + 24mm f/1.4 lens: 3.2 seconds at f/2 on ISO 1600

 

Searching for the Northern Lights - 2014 © Christopher MartinSearching for the Northern Lights
Canon 5DIII + 24-105mm f/4 lens at 24mm: 8 seconds at f/8 on ISO 1600

Great Blue Heron at Red Rock Crossing

Great Blue Heron in the grass - 2014 © Christopher Martin
The Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) I see are usually wading in the water or flying above it. When I was in Sedona I went down to Red Rock Crossing and was surprised to catch sight of one not by Oak Creek but in a field of tall grass a couple of hundred meters away from the water.

Heron under the red rocks - 2014 © Christopher Martin
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Down in the grass - 2014 © Christopher Martin
The bird was walking on a path leading up towards a ridge but lingered fairly close which allowed me to change lenses for a couple of different looks.  I really love these birds and it was a treat to see one in an unusual environment.

Walking away - 2014 © Christopher Martin
I noticed some crimson flecks on its bill and when I left the bird and went back towards Oak Creek, I figured out why the Heron stayed nearby.  I realized I had interrupted its dinner.  I left the area and returned to the edge of the clearing an hour later to find it had left but not before returning to finish the meal.

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