All rodeo cowboys are tough. I particularly admire the steer wrestlers as that is an event that I have a hard time even dreaming of trying out. Leaping off a perfectly good horse onto the back of a small cow with large horns seems a bit too close to the insane end of the scale for me.
I absolutely love watching and photographing this event despite having no interest in doing it myself. The short go of the steer wrestling event at the Tsuu T’ina All Indian Rodeo on July 26th put the top 10 qualifiers in the finals and a shot at the money. Keenan Crane (the image directly above) had a great run and took home the cheque and the hardware – well deserved!
This series of Leon Montour pulling in a steer illustrates a bit of the power, balance and danger of this event.
This weekend was the 41st annual Tsuu T’ina Nation’s Rodeo which draws First Nation people born to the saddle from all over North America. The rodeo is held at the Redwood Meadows Arena which just across Highway 22 from my home. This is one of my favourite rodeos and it was great to be able to be on the rails for the last day.
It was an afternoon that started with sun which gave way to heavy, heavy rain and ended with high clouds towards the end of the night. Dynamic photographic opportunities came with the changing weather which was great for me. Weather doesn’t make too much difference for the people or for the animals – they are all ready to go no matter what is going on above. I have a stack of photographs to look at, and will share more soon, but wanted to get out this first image of one of the high-flying bull riders from a great afternoon in the Bragg Creek area.
This morning I found a coyote skittering along the ditch on Highway 8 in between Bragg Creek and Springbank. At first, I thought it was an older pup but then I realized it was an adult in its sleek summer coat. I often photograph coyotes in the cooler months when they have their heavier jackets on so I’ll forgive myself the initial error. I believe this one was a female and she was absolutely beautiful. I was worried when I spotted her as she seemed to be trying to cross the road amid pretty steady traffic. Watching her, it became apparent that she and a couple of ravens were attracted to some bits of roadkill on the highway.
It was a relief when she slipped under the fence towards a field with an open stand of broken and weathered trees. She turned her attention towards hunting for field mice and that’s where the fun really began.
Turns out she is an accomplished hunter and I was delighted to watch her successfully catch two mice on three jumps. Of those leaps, I was in good position for two of them and am happy with the action caught.
The image above is the start of the first leap. The image at the top of this post was the next image as she was fully airborne.
The whole sequence from target acquisition to landing is efficient and I admired the focus, power and dexterity she showed. The three leaps all occurred within a short 2-3 minute stretch. On either side, she favoured me with a few inquisitive looks.
After a total of fifteen minutes she crossed a gravel back road and disappeared into the heavy scrub brush on the other side.
The perch on the hill I photographed the Aurora Borealis and lightning storm from a couple of weeks ago is now officially one of my favourite prairie viewpoints. On the weekend, I left my home in the dark and headed northeast towards the growing dawn. With a short drive I returned back to the same spot and found the view to be beautiful.
A heavy cloud stretched overhead towards the horizon with a break which allowed the first rays of pink sunlight to skip along the underside. The fast rising sun quickly changed the light from pink to gold as it pushed through less of the atmosphere.
One of my drives home earlier this week was made more exciting by a massive thundercloud just south of Highway 8. I stopped near the Rockyview Fire Department in Elbow Valley and photographed as it rumbled past. There were a few lightning strikes that I managed to capture but I was paying more attention to the angry beast.
It was dark, dark grey in the center, the edges were rolling fast and the temperature plunged by 10°C or more just before the rain began to fall. I scurried back into my car once the volume raised up to a downpour. Back on the road, I wondered how the storm would develop as it moved eastward. The next morning, I learned that it contributed to the flooding and heavy hail that beat up Chestermere. That was one of the mean summer storms we get in the Calgary area and I am sorry to hear about the damage it caused.
Frank Lake, just east of High River, is a great refuge for birds during migrations. It also serves as a summer home and breeding ground for many shorebirds and waterfowl. The sandy flats, rocky outcrops, tall reedy marshes and open water appeal to a wide range of birds and provides nice habitat to raise their chicks in.
The American avocet (Recurvirostra americana) is a beautiful shorebird that summers in Frank Lake. This is the northern end of their summer range – I’m glad they choose to come this far. I have photographed them at the lake a few times before where they have been feeding in the muddy shallows and beaches. On a trip there a couple of weeks ago, I was looking for some in flight images. When I had walked down to the shore, all the birds were active. I don’t think it was because of me or any raptors that had rustled everyone up. It seemed like it was a sunny afternoon, lot’s of chicks were hungry and all of the birds were flying, swimming and running around. It was a great scene with pelicans, stilts, geese, gulls and ducks all milling about.
And avocets! I found two small groups of them along the shoreline. One was a group of adults that generally left one another alone to forage for the tiny insects they favour. The other was a pair with their brood of four chicks.
From the adult group, I was able to track a few fliers. The family was a great bonus as I had not seen avocet babies before and I enjoyed watching them following their parents around.
At one point when I photographed a family of foxes in May, there was a ragged piece of cloth which served for a long-running tug-of-war at one point in the evening.
These three kits were the main players and they alternated between 1 on 1 and 1 on 2 battles.
For a while, a fourth looked interested in joining but they didn’t join in for very long.
This wild rose (Rosa acicularis), Alberta’s provincial flower, was glowing among the trees a couple of mornings ago when I was out early in Bragg Creek. The sun had just cleared a hilltop across the fields so the light was still soft and warm. Early mornings in the summer are a source of great inspiration from and communion with nature for me.
Canada Day is always a great event in the Redwood Meadows community. Due to enthusiasm, organization and efforts of the small army of volunteers a super fun day is created. From the bike parade led by the Redwood Meadows Fire Department, the entertainment on the outdoor stage, the adults tea party in the shade and all of the great children’s activities (face painting, bouncy castles, slip and slide and more) to the fireworks at the end of the day – they were all fantastic.
Our children had a great time down on the grounds and I wasn’t far behind. The weather cooperated, after a nasty hailstorm the night before, so I have a bit of a sunburn to show for my time listening to music and watching the kids play.
The fireworks are always good and I think they were really great this year. They started at 11pm under a still fairly bright sky. We sat facing northwest so I enjoyed having that element to frame the explosions against. A great day and we were all worn out at the end. Thank you to everyone who made this happen! Happy Canada Day!