One of our heavy spring snowstorms started early this morning. When I woke up I went out for a walk in the forest with these huge snowflakes falling eagerly to the ground.
From yesterday’s sunny day where I was out playing at the park late into the afternoon, it was an abrupt change by any measure.
I find deer to be so alert that I usually can get close and keep them relaxed by letting them see me while I move. When they are watching me, I can take a couple of steps without causing them to bolt away. A small flash of movement caught in the corner of an eye or a stray sound will scare both small herds, and larger ones, away.
I did not get particularly close to this pair of white-tailed deer. I exchanged a few looks as I passed them while on a hike in West Bragg and they were already on alert so I made a couple of images and then continued along the trail that the line dividing Bragg Creek from the edge of Kananaskis Country. With the rain of the past week, I expect things will start greening up quickly now. I will get back to this field this weekend of the next one to check on both these white-tails and the foliage.
(Click images for link to higher resolution versions)
We had a monster snowstorm last night which made a slideshow out of the back roads and covered Bragg Creek in a fresh wrapping of winter by morning. I went out to West Bragg early and caught the mist as the day was warming up. I went to a frequent haunt for moose but crossed the meadow without finding any. Then I found a great gray owl and the next half hour was spent watching and waiting for it to take flight.
When it did launch it was fantastic. I love the power they drive off of their perch with. And then there are the wing beats… awesome.
I had hopes that when it did fly it would be a dive to hunt. Here the owl flew across the field closer to the forest. Not very much disappointment – it was great to watch and photograph.
On Saturday evening, I was combing Bragg Creek’s back roads for a Great Gray Owl I have seen a couple of times lately. I did not find the owl but enjoyed the scintillating blues in the sky contrasting with the bright white clouds. I paused my search to watch the sky and see if any of the clouds picked up the sunset colors once the sun dropped. I was mesmerized by these colors and contrasts and the scene faded to gray and then black in just a few minutes.
Last Saturday Bragg Creek had dark clouds racing across the sky at dawn. As the sun crept close to the horizon the first rays of light shot under the storms and illuminated the clouds creating wonderful hues of color. With the winter sun hanging lower in the sky now, this light stayed around long enough that I was able to photograph and enjoy the scene.
A little later the streaks gave way to a softer diffusion of color across the clouds.
Before the sun rose yesterday, I was driving in West Bragg Creek on one of the dirt roads that skirts Kananaskis. Looking for wildlife, I noticed a moose in the trees.
I stopped and after a few minutes she walked towards me and into the clearing, then I noticed the calf come out of the forest as well.
There were some branches that she had her eye on and they both stared at me for a minute and then wandered towards the stand for breakfast. They both appeared to be in good health, the late winter has helped the grazing animals with a little more time to store food.
A short collection of some images from around Bragg Creek over the last couple of weeks of fall.
Cody Cover Chuck during his championship ride in the bull riding event at the 2011 Tsuu T’ina Rodeo on July 24th. Cody’s young, just in the tail end of his teens, but has a long string of championships through youth and junior rodeos. The way he rides, there would be no surprise if he earns a spot on the pro circuit sooner than later.
This year’s edition of the Tsuu T’ina Rodeo was great fun. With people attending from across North America, this rodeo has a great breadth of people involved in competing, organizing and enjoying. The level of competition was really high this year with some cowboys making some impressive rides. The finals were on Sunday and I was able to work with some of the guys managing the chutes to get great access. Some of the resulting images are from quite a different perspective from where I normally shoot the rodeo.
The athletes, competitors and visiting people are very friendly and this is the second year in a row where I have made a couple of great new friends. Robert and Dave, I hope you like these images as you guys helped me so much by allowing me to stand on top of the gates and letting me know when the bulls were moving up – thanks!
This fellow was a funny guy and a very good rodeo clown. The clowns are some of the hardest workers in the corral – this guy was no exception.
I love watching the barrel racing teams sprint towards the line after the last barrel. It provides a great opportunity to capture the motion of the rider and horse, especially when they are both leaning into it.
This cowboy had a really good ride. When the bulls get out of the gate and then start jumping and spinning, there is every chance of a great score… if the rider can stay onboard.
Another great rodeo at the Tsuu T’ina First Nation near Bragg Creek. Thank you to all of the cowboys, cowgirls, horses and bulls who put on a great show.
This location, just west of Calgary, is one of my favourite places to photograph during the winter months when the sun sets behind the southern edge of the Canadian Rockies. Last night, a massive storm broke free of the mountains and stretched across the prairie. There were some great holes in the clouds that allowed sunlight to streak through here and there. A very dramatic scene to work with and create images of.
Behind the ominous forerunning clouds came the heavy rain. Here the rain is hammering Bragg Creek and moving quickly onto the fields.
As the storm’s intensity built, lightning seemed inevitable and I was lucky to catch this strike hitting along the Elbow River behind a hill in Redwood Meadows.
When the rain did arrive where I was photographing, cover in the car was the prudent option. It was no exaggeration to say this was a torrential downpour.
There was a blizzard that flew out of the mountains this evening. Huge snowflakes swirled around the trees off my deck and it was a really beautiful storm to watch. As the sun began to set, it fell below the storm clouds and sunlight backlit the trees and the snow. A surreal dreamscape that was great to photograph.
Over the last couple of weeks the North American Robins have begun to arrive and there are now good numbers flitting about the receding snow and the newly exposed grass. In this part of the world, they are one of the most promising signs that spring has successfully beaten back winter. I’m very happy to see them making that case both here in Bragg Creek and in Banff.
There is a small herd of wild horses that occasionally spend a couple of days along Highway 22 near Bragg Creek. This past week they stayed in one of the meadows with most of the group fawning over a very young foal. It was great to see them in the field and I was glad they didn’t disappear into the forest when I stopped to watch them.
Wild horses are a contentious issue for some here in Alberta. There are arguments over whether they are actually wild or are feral and what protections should be extended as a result. These horses stay on Tsuu T’ina first nation land and I hope they continue to be safe to roam the territory they have staked out.
On Sunday morning I went into West Bragg to look or wildlife along the backroads and a few trails. When I got to Wild Rose, there was a moose cow halfway up a driveway. I didn’t have a good angle but it was nice to watch it eating branches for a few minutes. While I was waiting to see if she would walk into a better position, another moose walked into another stand of branches that was much closer to me. About 20 meters away! She didn’t seem bothered by me so I set about photographing my new friend.
After about half an hour, her curiosity got the best of her as she walked out of the bushes, onto the driveway and walked towards me. I stepped back towards the rear of my car and she walked around the front.
She snacked on a small group of brambles right beside where I had parked my car for a couple of minutes and then retraced her path back up the driveway.
She stopped at a few branches as she walked up the rise and then laid down on the lawn in the snow.
I took this last picture before I left her to relax. I hope spring comes soon so that all of the wildlife get to forage on some greenery. I think this winter’s early start, cold spells and deep snow have taken a toll on their reserves.
It’s probably easy to tell that I really like moose and love photographing them.
Here is a link to a set I put together for a print series I’m working on.
These images were taken over the past four years around the Bragg Creek and Kananaskis areas in Alberta.
I was out at the Folk Tree Lodge yesterday and had time to wander around the farm buildings and visit the horses. It was a beautiful afternoon, a warm day after a long spell of cold weather. I was photographing with a Lensbaby Muse which is tricky to focus at the wide open aperture but is really fun for the slices of focus and blur you can work with in camera. I really enjoy using this lens in strong midday light when I might otherwise be tempted to put away the camera and wait for softer, directional light.
Alvise and Paola were making use of the day and working around the farm. Alvise was up and down the road hauling with his machinery. The colors of the hard hat and the tractor drew my attention and made good subject matter for a few photographs before I ended up talking to the horses. They were not as inquisitive as a few weeks ago but still fun to work with.
The deck off of our bedroom looks over the path that runs the length of Redwood Meadows towards the Elbow River. A couple of days ago, I was looking out of the windows towards the water and I saw a large bump in a clearing in the trees just across the trail. I ran out of the house with my 300mm lens to grab my tripod from my car and then walked up the rise. I thought it was a moose and I was really excited to see a young cow laying down in the snow. She seemed to be relaxing in the last sunshine of the afternoon. With the long lens, I was able to stay a good distance from the moose and she was not upset having me nearby. When their ears lay back and they keep their eyes pinned on you then you need to back away and possibly leave. I try to keep that from happening so that they stay comfortable and I can spend some time with them.
After a few images, she stopped nuzzling in the snow and got up to nibble on the twigs and branches. With her slowly walking westwards, I headed further down the path to the trail that leads down to the river. My thought being that if the moose kept moving west, she would come to this path which would allow for unobstructed photographs with the opening in the forest.
Leaving the moose behind, I lost track of her for a few minutes. I thought she might have headed through the forest north directly to the river but then I heard some rustling and soon saw her among the trees near the path. Here she was munching on foliage and watching me. I had set up in the middle of the path as I wanted her to see me and then choose whether to come closer or remain in the forest. With moose, I prefer to make sure they know where I am as they can become stressed if you disappear then suddenly appear or create noise nearby (per the shutter on a camera). She moved parallel to me and then crossed the small clearing and dined on the branches skirting the edge of the path.
Heading down the path, I thought she was going to the river but then she headed east, backtracking into the forest. At that point, I thought she was gone for the day. Evening was coming in quickly so I headed on to the river to see what the sunset might look like. The last one I shot there in December was beautiful so it is always worth checking. There wasn’t too much color to the west so I headed up one of the dried up channels of the river and was very happy to see my new friend once more. She had toured through the woods and then headed to this arm of the river to continue grazing.
I didn’t follow her this time as she trekked through the snow, heading up another path to my house. At the top of the trail, I looked for her and this is the last image I made with her heading north into a stand of trees towards the main part of the river. Possibly to cross into the undeveloped forest there or to continue her eastward trek between the Elbow and our small community.
Moose are not a rarity around Bragg Creek, but this was the first time that I have seen a moose directly in Redwood Meadows. A very special encounter with a beautiful animal.
On my drive home last night I spotted a large, oblong shape perched on a tree branch just off a gravel road on the forest’s edge near Bragg Creek. Going at highway speed and being a couple hundred meters away from the object, I wasn’t sure what it was but I quickly turned around hoping that it was an owl of some type. When I pulled up the gravel road, I was very happy to see it had not yet flown away. I grabbed my camera, a telephoto lens and a flash and walked slowly towards the bird. Even in the failing light, it was easy to identify my new friend as a great grey owl. I kept the flash off as I approached giving the owl time to get used to my presence and decide if it wanted to model for me. Great greys are mercurial, one encounter they will fly away as soon as they see you, another time they will stay but keep their eyes away from you. This was one of the great encounters where it allowed me to come close and was not agitated. At one point it flew away but then circled around me and came to land on a fence post about ten meters from me. I photographed this beautiful creature for about fifteen minutes and then left it to continue its wait for the ground creatures to start their nightly forays into the open.
Perched on the top of a tiny branch this is where I first found the owl. Given the size of these birds (wingspans average 1.4 meters), I’m always surprised when I see a visible demonstration of how light they are (average of 1.2 kilograms).
I thought the owl was leaving here but then it banked to the right and landed on the fence post across the gravel from me.
At this point, it was quite dark and the colors in the scene were restricted to blue hues and gray tones. I turned the flash on to capture the brown color in the feathers and the yellow in the eyes. The image I wanted to finish with was of the owl flying where you could see the motion and power in its flight before finishing the shoot. I used a slightly longer exposure to get movement in the wings and panned with the owl as it launched and flew past me.
It doesn’t always turn out but when I can create the image I’ve imagined in my head it is a good day. This is pretty close to what I was trying to capture in the photograph. Thank you to Bobbi for managing the three-ring circus at home for an extra while longer last night to let me play with an owl for a little bit.
My wife and I were out at the Folk Tree Lodge near Bragg Creek, Alberta to give the kids a night with the grandparents. We spent New Year’s Eve there with a great group at the invitation of Paola and Alvise so it was great to spend another night there – such a great retreat.
In the morning I had plans to wander the trails around the ranch and find a good spot to photograph the sunrise. I threw those out once I came up to the fence for the horse paddock. Paola and Alvise have a small herd of horses they take care of. In the pre-dawn I could make them out on the far side of the large field so I decided they would be the subject of the morning’s shoot. All the horses had to do was cooperate. Horses can be wary but their curiosity will usually takeover if you can remain still and just wait for them. It took a while but once two horses approached the rail and, after a good pat, went back to the herd, then the rest of the horses relaxed and followed me around as I worked with the increasing light and rising sun out of the east. I really enjoyed talking to them and playing with them as I was photographing.
In the processing of the images, I worked on a few different approaches. I will give the summary of what work I did in post for the applicable images in case you are interested.
Shooting towards the sun washed this photo out a little bit so I brought it back by increasing the contrast and black level in Lightroom.
This mare was easily the most curious in the group, followed closely by the black horse. Both enjoyed the attention and the scratches on the cheek and behind the ears.
The curious horse playing shy among the trees on her way over to the fence.
Brightened slightly in Lightroom and then I increased the saturation in the coats and trees while cooling the white balance in the snow. I spent about one minute on this image which is more than usual but I like the result.
This was the first horse to approach once the herd had moved across the field, into the trees and close to me on the fence. The sun was still a while away from rising so the deep colours in the coats was not there yet so I preferred this image in black and white. I converted it using the split tone functionality in Lightroom’s develop module. I like to use a a pale gold color for the highlights and a blue gray for the shadows. I increased the exposure to accomplish two goals: bring out the details in the foreground horse’s face and to lend an abstract, graphic feel to the other horses.
I desaturated this image in Lightroom and then used Topaz Adjust to bring out detail and to do targeted exposure adjustment. The sun backlit the horses and I loved the way it highlighted their coats. I used the adjustments to brighten the faces and bring out the detail.
Great subjects and fun to work with these images a little bit on the computer. Thank you to Alvise and Paolo for enabling a night (and morning) in their wonderland.
A quiet morning in Bragg Creek with a bit of snow falling. I had some fun photographing the animals who came by for a few peanuts.
I photographed a pretty wide variety of landscapes through last year. Here are the ones that, for one reason or another, stand out to me.
A full moon setting over the mountains above Elbow Falls in Kananaskis, Alberta.
Sulphur Mountain and a shrouded Mount Rundle are reflected in the Third Vermilion Lake in the Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada.
The blowing snow, bright sunshine and cool colours showed a lot of the moods of the Canadian Rockies.
Sunset on the Elbow River as it was tightly wrapped in winter’s trappings.
Silhouette of the Rocky Mountains against clouds lit up by the setting sun.
Springbank sunset just west of Calgary, Alberta.
Sunrise over a prairie marsh in Springbank.
A scenic farmstead on the Prairies south of Gull Lake in Saskatchewan.
A storm rolling east out of the Rockies and onto the Albertan Prairies.
First snowfall in Kananaskis at Barrier Lake in September.
A long exposure of the rocks and ocean along Sunset Beach near Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
Bagan in Myanmar provided an incredible setting for landscape photography. I was able to enjoy sunrises, sunsets and even shoot from a hot air balloon while I was there in February.
We spent New Year’s Eve at our friends’ home, the Folk Tree Lodge, in Priddis. This was one of my last photographs from 2010 and certainly a favourite of mine.
2010 was a great year. I’m looking forward to this new one.
This squirrel has lived in the woodpile beside our garage for more than three years. I used to think that he poached the bird seed for the woodpeckers, chickadees and nuthatches that stay near year round that we put out. Now I just put out extra for this little fellow. This afternoon I was throwing peanuts out on the deck and he showed up right after I whistled to the bluejays to let them know their snack was served. In this photograph the squirrel had carried one of the peanuts up to a low branch while a jay above set some snow loose when it jumped off its perch.
This weathered tack outbuilding is on the edge of the Tsuu T’ina Nation near Bragg Creek. The trees that the building backs onto serve as the line where the prairie gives way to the eastern edge of Kananaskis and the Rocky Mountains.
I detour past this building throughout the year and this week when I drove by I thought it was framed really well by the dormant bushes and leafless trees all covered by scattered snow. It has always struck me as a lonely, forgotten shack and on this day, the surroundings seemed to match.