The Aurora Borealis lit up for a couple of hours last night so Jack and I were out until 5 AM watching the ribbons stripe the night sky. There were few clouds and it turned out to be a very enjoyable performance.
(as always, please click on any image to open a higher resolution version)
In March, I spent a weekend in Vancouver photographing birds, Granville Market and a few other things with a good friend. On one of the mornings we headed down to Stanley Park around 4:30 AM to see about sunrise. We walked to the seawall along the Burrard Inlet and worked for a while with the lights of North Van across the water.
As dawn came in, we moved slowly towards the Lion’s Gate Bridge and I had a lot of fun working with this dominant structure. I was very happy that they left the bridge lights on right through sunrise. I used to spend a lot of time exploring the park when I went to school in Vancouver but this was one of only a few times that I have photographed there. It is a beautiful place to spend time – with or without a camera.
With morning came the runners that pile on miles along the pathways year round. I enjoyed working them into a few photographs before packing up for breakfast.
Mother Nature flipped a switch a week ago and now we are free of snow and the temperatures are t-shirt appropriate. The moose probably aren’t excited about the warmer weather but I’m sure they are enjoying snacking on the new greenery. Looking at the photographs of this young bull moose afterwards, it struck me that it has been about nine months since I have had snow-free backgrounds of moose.
Regarding the moose, expect that they will start retreating for the cooler forest just after dawn pretty soon. I think it is finally safe to say we are now coming out of the mild, but very long, winter here.
This coyote didn’t seem impressed with the storm that tore across the Foothills on the weekend. The front of the blizzard was pretty wet so when the temperature started to drop, everything built up a layer of ice. I suppose this creature didn’t feel like trotting around with the extra weight, and the blinding snow, so it laid down and burrowed in. It was resolute to stay put and only watched me as I set up my camera and lens for this picture. Most coyotes will perk their ears so I wondered if this one may have been injured or sick. However, I went by a couple of hours later and the coyote had moved on. The storm was still raging so maybe dinner had called her to action. When I’d seen her earlier, I thought she might not leave until the weather improved considerably.
After watching a Barn owl hunt across the long grass marsh flats at Boundary Bay through dusk in mid-March, I was packing up when I saw a Snowy owl perched on a log. It was about 100 yards away but the white oval shape stood out distinctively against the blues and blacks of evening.
I worked my way along the levee towards the bird and it just stared at me as I stopped about 50 feet away. We stared at one another for a minute and then the owl whipped its head around and cocked it towards some sound or motion I was oblivious to. It didn’t attack and went back to looking around for a while. A few minutes later, it launched onto another large piece of driftwood which was closer to the ground.
From there, the snowy stalked along the wood and ended up jumping into the grass at one point. It stayed in the grass for a little bit but I didn’t see whether it was successful in catching something or not.
The bay was dark by this time and I left the owl as it flew to another perch nearby. I had a few great encounters in Boundary Bay – I’m already excited to go back soon.
This coyote found Jack and I as we wound upwards along the road up towards Lake Minnewanka. It trotted along in the trees and then cut down into the ditch and then took a few steps towards up the hill again before it stopped. It stared our way for a few seconds before backtracking a little bit and then crossing the road and going over the edge. Beautiful animals who are among nature’s most adaptable. I see them alone or in small packs in the mountains, on the prairie and throughout the Foothills and enjoy photographing them immensely.
A few echos of the blizzard from last week blew through since then. More opportunities to photograph winter storms and with the image above I wanted to show the chaotic aspect often seen when the wind blows and the snow flies. Click on the image to open a page with a higher resolution version.
Our family went for a drive along the Grand Valley Road northwest of Cochrane a few days ago in search of raptors of any description. This road is nice drive that is rarely busy and can often yield sightings of owls, hawks or eagles. In a hilly farmland area we noticed a number of ravens circling around a stand of trees in a field a couple of hundred metres off the road. When we pulled over to see what the focus of their attention was two coyotes bolted out from under a large cedar and sprinted across the open into the thicker forest on the far side of the field. Looking back to the spot where they started running we could see a carcass that had been mostly picked clean of what, judging by one of the horns that was sticking up, appeared to be a bison. As it was on farm land it seems likely there were bison being raised here but there were no other farm animals within sight to confirm that theory. With coyotes, ravens, magpies and probably a number of other predators drawn to this unfortunate beast, its herd was likely as far away from this spot as the fences would allow. So, we were watching the ravens which were squawking and pestering the smaller birds picking at the scraps when Bobbi noticed a Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) approaching from down the valley.
We already had the long lenses out so we were able to photograph the bird as it flew overhead towards the other birds. Two ravens also saw the eagle inbound and flew up to harass this new attendee. The three looped around the trees for a minute before the eagle landed in one of the high branches and the black birds returned to ground.
During this chase, the overcast skies took on a more threatening tone and soon a soft snowfall turned into a blizzard. I thought the Golden eagle would wait out the height of the storm from the perch so I kept looking around to see if the coyotes, or anything else, came back.
Out of the sheets of snow a Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) swooped in and took up a spot on a tree near to the Golden. This had turned out to be a great encounter and when a couple more Bald eagles flew in and around over the next half an hour, it continued to get better and better. The snow did finally ease up and there were opportunities for nice flight images.
The lighter skies appeared to spur one of the Bald eagles to say goodbye to a raven it had been sharing a tree with across the field and glide over to the bison skeleton.
This eagle brought a good amount of conviction to its scavenging intent and it chased off all of the passerine that had been crowding on the ground.
When we moved on, this eagle was alone on the ground having successfully landed and taken ownership of what remained.
The Golden eagle had disappeared and two Bald eagles were perched where they could keep an eye on the bones. The collection of black birds were scattered in singles and small groups around the scene though none strayed close to the eagle holding dominion on the ground. The last wildlife we saw as we drove away were the coyotes trotting along the hill towards the farm-house keeping their distance while still keeping an eye on the bison.
I have been able to spend a couple of evenings with the two Snowy Owls since my first encounter with them near the Springbank Airport just before New Year’s. These are a few of the images that have stood out from the growing collection. I absolutely love watching these birds and with more time I’m learning some of their habits and behaviours.
The images below are from a drive I made east of Calgary on the weekend. I had good luck finding Snowies around Langdon and Gleichen last year and the success continued when I spotted this beautiful owl flying around one of the fields.
That went by quick. Seems like things are speeding up and 2012 went by in a flash. I reviewed a large set of landscapes from the past year and it was fun to recall those moments. But, I was a little surprised that a year has gone by since I pulled together a list of my favourites from 2011. I suppose I have little control over how quickly time rolls – I will just continue to try to stuff as much into it as we go. Before I move with my camera forward into 2013, here are some images of mine that stood out for me from 2012.
The mountains in the Albertan parts of the Rockies pulled me close many times over the year. I really enjoyed photographing Mount Kidd from a new location in the fall. Above, the reflecting pools along Highway 40 just past Wedge Pond were a new place for me. And I enjoyed a couple of mornings down along the shoreline of Wedge Pond with the image below resulting from one beautiful morning.
I also was pleased with the images I put together from Banff, Lake Louise, Moraine Lake and Jasper as well. The photograph of Lake Louise’s canoe cabin is subtle and is a vein of imagery that I am continuing to work in.
The view of the Valley of the Ten Peaks from the top of the rock moraine at the near side of Moraine Lake is spectacular – particularly the alpen glow in the morning. This summer I went up in the evening and was rewarded with a different, and equally beautiful, look at sunset.
This hoar-frost on branches stretching out of a small pool in the marsh west of one of the Vermilion Lakes in Banff provided for a nice abstract composition.
I spend a fair amount of time photographing wildlife and landscapes on the prairie. The storms in the summer can be incredible but the clouds this winter have been really inspiring. In the photograph below I watched a dragon form and stretch towards the east to meet the sun. Beautiful colours and great to let imagination have the reins.
Before the snow flew, I was working to photograph the warm autumn sunrises on the fields. When I had these horses approach as the sun cleared the horizon, the image really came together.
The sunrise photography extended west in Bragg Creek and the image below was made along the Cowboy Trail (Highway 22X) just east of the town.
In the summer I joined Bobbi on a journey to Sedona in Arizona. It was my first visit and is a place I was excited to return to as soon as I had returned home. The variety of landscapes in the Coconino National Forest and the time to hike into a few places were great luxuries I enjoyed on the trip.
Cathedral Rock is an iconic subject and it deserves its high standing with artists. Our first day in Sedona we walked along the river to the base of the rock and watched the shadows climb up the red rock. On a hot afternoon, I escaped to the West Fork Trail which meanders up the Oak Creek Canyon. The calm water, lush forest and red rock made many bends in the creek picture worthy and this was my favourite from a productive hike. And there were wonderful butterflies flitting around in one meadow of flowers too.
One of the evenings, I went out to the top of a mesa and photographed the night sky. It was a bit remote so I had the trees, the stars and a few strange sounds in the desert night all to myself. That was another side to Sedona that I was very happy to have experienced.
There were a few other nightscape photo outings through the year but the highlight was photographing the Northern Lights in October. I had missed several good Aurora nights through the summer so I was excited when I got to watch them rolling down from the north for almost two hours.
Later in October I was in Jasper on a wildlife photography trip. The animals were the focus of the week spent driving and hiking along the Icefields Parkway and around Jasper but this gentle scene where snow had just blanketed the valley along the Athabasca River demanded to be photographed (despite some good-natured heckling from my companions).
And in late November our family headed to Kaua’i the northernmost of the populated Hawaiian islands. Time dripped by and we had a great vacation. I had almost too much fun photographing creatures above, on and under the water and those are the images that first came to mind when I was looking back at our visit. However, once I worked through the catalog over the Christmas break, I realized that the landscape images from this year’s trip to the island were solid additions to my Hawaii portfolio.
We stayed a stone’s throw from Nukoli’i Beach on the east shore so the sun rose directly in front of us each morning. I spent a few mornings down on the beach photographing what the ocean delivered with morning sun.
The warm light following the sunrise provided beautiful illumination on the beach and through the waves. One of those places that is easy to spend a whole day shooting, painting or playing at.
We covered a lot of ground during our time in Kaua’i and one of the favourite places for seals, snorkelling, swimming, waves to watch and coastline views was Ke’e Beach on the northern edge of the Na Pali Coast. The last night in Kaua’i we spent at Ke’e and at one point there was a rainbow over the beach when I looked to the east and the mists and violent waves of the Na Pali in winter to the southwest.
A couple of days earlier, the spray kicked up from the waves hitting the rocks rolled up the forested mountainsides to create another magical scene.
An amazing lightning storm over the Hanalei Valley provided the last image for this collection. The rain held off for almost three hours before forcing me into my car and back to the apartment.
I am drawn back to Mount Kidd in Kananaskis over and over. In the morning the eastern light accentuates the crags and patterns in the rocks and dominates the skyline from many viewpoints along Highway 40. From these reflecting pools a bit further south the mountain doesn’t dominate in the same way but I like the balances that can be found between the peaks and the elements along the shoreline. Later in the morning, I worked the scene with black and white images in mind but with the first light, I was enjoying the splashes of colour.
Green algae under one of the ponds provided a green cast to some of the reflections. I thought the shapes under the water along with the colour were really interesting.
This pond had a floor of stones which was another detail to play with.
With the pink light receding to warm morning sunlight, I liked how the land still in shadow had a cool tone contrasted with the mountain and its reflection.
We stayed one night in the lodge on Emerald Lake in British Columbia so I was able to be on the water’s edge well ahead of sunrise the next morning. In the deep blues of the early morning, I could make out some heavy clouds in the sky so I was uncertain if a fiery sky was coming. The mountains that ring the eastern edge of the lake were streaked with thick fog rising off of the water and mixing with the clouds.
The sunlight was held up by a bank of grey so the drama never painted the sky however the details in the canoes, the bridge and along the shore as well as a slow shutter to drag out the sky and its reflection made for an enjoyable scene to work with.
I’m looking forward to getting back to this literal jewel of the Yoho National Park near the town of Field. A glowing sky of pinks, reds and oranges would be wonderful to see in this valley and reflected in the lake.
Moraine Lake is one of the Canadian Rockies most iconic landscapes. I have been there many times and it continues to share new magic with each visit. I was up on top of the rock pile with a couple of good friends for a quiet evening and we returned a few hours later for a cloudy sunrise. Both times presented views of the Valley of the Ten Peaks and the lake that I had not seen previously. I enjoyed them all immensely.
The evening watched as the clouds ran towards the horizon leaving open sky above the peaks that loom above the lake and curl west down the valley. The soft light near sunset looked beautiful where it touched the peaks and provided a very subtle contrast to the deepening blues and greens that ushered in the night.
When I was crossing the stream where the lake most visibly drains out, the bright colors in the landscape’s palette had been wrung out so I was drawn to the speck of orange upstream. I liked how this small information shelter’s log frame stood defiantly against the gloom. At this point, some great clouds had stretched out above the water and they provided an abstract mirror of the river’s folds as revealed in this 13 second exposure.
When we returned around 5am, the clouds had staked out all four corners of the sky. We watched breaks in the sky expectantly for more than an hour, taking us through sunrise without any light painting the peaks or the clouds curling around them. We were joined by a hopeful couple from Japan and two Chinese ladies on top of the moraine. Quiet chattering among the separate groups along with the occasional shutter click marking the time shuffling by. It was nice, not the dramatic alpen glow or early light that I have seen before but another interesting side of this valley.
Around 6:30 a large break in the clouds developed in the east and 15 minutes later the first shafts of sunlight hit the mountains. The light was still pretty warm and the drama I had been looking for unfolded for the next 45 minutes before the sun had risen too high for my landscape photography tastes. I enjoyed watching the color in the lake swirl and change as the house lights of the day came up. With stray clouds still wrapping peaks occasionally and the sunlight marching down the forest side of the lake, there was a lot to watch and to photograph.
Packing up, I retraced my steps down the path back towards the lodge. Crossing the river once more, I was drawn in again. This time the wet rocks were sparkling in the sunshine and I found the light on Yamnee (Mount Bowlen), Tonsa and Sapta (Mount Perren) particularly attractive. Breakfast was calling my friends (and me too – if I had been listening) and it was a good final image to complete this time with the lake, the valley and these wonderful peaks.
(please click on an image to load a higher resolution version)
The finals of the Calgary Stampede’s Centennial Rodeo were a wet, muddy affair this afternoon. It was awesome! The last event was the Bull Riding Final. Earlier in the day, the rain and mud seemed to work in the bull’s favour and of the ten cowboys that qualified for last day, only three of the four places in the final four were filled. The other men were bucked off and did not get a shot at the $100,000. In the final, luck stayed with the bulls and all three riders were thrown. That meant another round of rides but adrenaline took over and you wouldn’t have known that these guys were each on their third bull of the day! Shane Proctor, the 2011 Stampede Champion from Mooresville, North Carolina, got started and hung on from the side of the bull for the last two seconds to make full-time and earned a score of 66.50. With the wet conditions and the ferocity of the animals, no one ruled out that as the winning ride even though the cowboy himself would have liked more.
Next up was Aaron Roy from Yellow Grass, Saskatchewan. He rode beautifully aboard Risky Remedy and scored an 86.0. He had great control and it was a ride worthy of a champion.
The final ride, barring a tie, was Chad Besplug riding on Kish This. When the gate swung open, they came out like a huge whirling dervish.
Mud flying, cow jumping and spinning while the cowboy stayed balanced and rode out the madness.
Chad won the battle and remained firmly in place past the horn. He did end up getting thrown and went flying in the air a couple of seconds after time.
However, you have to get off a bull somehow and as long as you dot get hurt doing it then it’s a good dismount.
The crowd knew it was a great ride but it was not clear where his score would land. Later, when he was being interviewed he said neither him or Aaron Roy were sure who won. They had a minute to share a couple of words while the judges confirmed the score and shook hands agreeing that either one was deserving. The score was an 87.0 and Chad Besplug earned the title of Calgary Stampede Bull Riding Champion for 2012.
The three rodeo clowns, who practice their craft of keeping the bull riders safe exceptionally well, were the first to congratulate the winner.
Then, as he crossed the infield, they tackled him into the muddy bog created by the rain that had just ended. That was almost as much fun as the winning ride itself.
Congratulations Chad – well-earned and it is fantastic to have a Canadian champion on the 100th anniversary of the Calgary Stampede!
The rodeo down at the Calgary Stampede today was great today. It was Day One for the Group B competitors and it seemed obvious that they were ready to get started.
Here, Cody Cassidy has just left a perfectly comfortable horse to dive onto the back of a slightly ornery cow. The Donalda, Alberta cowboy did a great job with this ride pulling the steer down in 4.5 seconds which was good for second place on the day.
Blake Knowles, from Heppner, Oregon, digs boots into the dirt as he drags the steer to a stop.
Clint Cannon had a wild ride on Coal Black with the horse winning today’s round. It was a good Bareback event matchup and I would like to see Clint turn in some good scores and get into the final.
In the same event, Jake Vold drew Witch Doctor. The horse lived up to its name and was a tricky ride. One that the Bareback rider from Ponoka, Alberta was up to the challenge for. Together, the pairing won the day with an 86.0 ride.
Savannah Reeves, a perennial contender from Cross Plains, Texas who won the 2010 Ladies Barrel Racing event rounds the first barrel during her run.
I can’t wait for the weekend. The performances have already been great and I am excited about what we will see for the finals.
(Please click on each image if you are interested in higher resolutions)
The weather this weekend was more winter than early summer – In the Banff National Park it was cold. Large, heavy flakes of wet snow fell fast for a couple of hours in the morning. I drove up to Lake Minnewanka and this was the only mammal I saw on the drive up and back down.
This young Bighorn sheep was walking alone on the edge of the road away from the water. When I pulled over, he walked 100 metres towards me and then sauntered nonchalantly right past me.
He stopped a few times on both the approach and as he walked away. Which gave me some nice photo opportunities to work with the animal, the snow and the even light.
I drove around the Minnewanka Loop in the Banff National Park this morning on the search for wildlife, bears in particular. The loop starts at the easternmost Banff townsite exit and goes uphill to Lake Minnewanka. Along the way you can occasionally see wolves, bears, moose, elk, bighorn sheep and deer. The snow was falling with great enthusiasm by 8 am this morning. It made finding wildlife a bit more challenging but I loved how the sky looked filled with these huge flakes.
In the image above I was on a bluff looking over Two Jack Lake towards Mount Rundle. This stand of trees is on a small point that juts out prominently. With the snow this was the only feature of the lake that could be seen. The trees looked like they were painted with brush strokes and this image shows some of that.