Bobbi and I are in Cabo san Lucas with our children for a nice break from winter. We left just before a heavy blizzard so we were lucky with the timing. The mornings have been spectacular here as we are located on a lovely stretch of sand where the sun climbs out of the Sea of Cortez right in front of us. On this morning the silhouette of a fellow sunrise watcher tied the glowing pastels in the sky ahead of dawn to the rippled reflections and the beach.
Fuji X100S: 1/30 of a second at f/8 on ISO 800
I couldn’t help but think of the carnival ground food staple when I was photographing at dawn a couple of days ago.
This is a collection of a my favourite landscape photographs from the past couple of years. Locations include North America’s Rocky Mountains, the Prairies, and the island of Kaua’i. If you are interested in having a look, please click on this link or on the image above.
I was walking along a forested stream that runs parallel with the Elbow River where they run under Highway 8 near Discovery Ridge on the western edge of Calgary on Saturday morning. When the snow started to fall, it took very little time for the flakes to grow in both size and frequency.
The trees were soon cloaked in white, leaving the water alone to provide a little colour in the landscape.
It was quiet with only the sound of the snow falling. And a serene walk along this tributary to the Elbow River among the trees that edge its length.
Near the end of the walk, a raven flew overhead – the snow visible between us.
The slushy rain we had for a couple of hours last night in Redwood Meadows was snow in Bragg Creek. The kids and I toured through West Bragg to check out the first snow and see what wildlife we might find.
We found a few small groups of deer, Mules and White-tailed, in different places. A young bull moose walked in front of us when we were on the edge of Kananaskis Country. It was nice to see a few creatures out and about.
The afternoon was beautiful so I’m not sure if this first snowfall will stay on the ground or not. It was great to work with white back in the color palette.
Winter is beginning to win the hearts and minds of the mountains in Kananaskis Country. After the sunrise at Wedge Pond, I hiked around the Upper Kananaskis Lake for a little while. There are some lovely yellows and golds in the trees reaching up along the lower flanks. With a few days of cool weather the patches of snow have knitted together and trekked down the slopes to meet, and pass through, the forest.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 24-105mm lens at 47mm: 13.0 seconds at f/11 on ISO 800
When I was in Glacier National Park in Montana, one of the mornings offered up a great sunrise. I shared a couple of photographs from that morning previously in this post. Reviewing the images from that trip last night, I found one more image from the same morning that I really liked. I missed this one the first time through but I’m glad it didn’t slip by on the second pass.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 17-40mm lens (at 17mm): 13 seconds at f/22 on ISO 400
With most of the aspens having turned gold in the lower reaches of Kananaskis Country around Bragg Creek, I was excited to get up to Wedge Pond to see how the colours were around the water and up towards Mount Kidd. It was a cloudy morning but for a few minutes at dawn the sun broke through in a couple of places. A strange, soft purple-pink glow illuminated the whole scene fleetingly. I doubt I will ever get tired of visiting this place.
Autumn is a great season for sunrises in the prairies around Calgary. The clouds at dawn can be spectacular. Last week, I was in Springbank and the sky was beautiful. The interesting silhouettes from this wind-broken stand of trees were a good partner to the light playing in the clouds.
I drove up to Apgar, a small village in Glacier National Park, this morning. I arrived at the southern edge of Lake McDonald in the dark and headed past the sleeping townsite for the rocky beach. The full moon provided a bit of light out over the water and I could see the mist was already rising up into the cold air. I started getting excited as the eastern edge of the sky brightened and silhouetted the mountain peaks above the north and east sides of the lake. The glow in the sky deepened and the colours came in beautifully.
As the intense colour began to fade, I was able to balance this great stem of autumn leaves with the lovely Grinnell argillite rocks under the water (the first image). A very beautiful morning in Montana’s Glacier National Park.
We escaped to Montana for a couple of days yesterday. The drive along the Going-To-The-Sun road that bisects Glacier National Park was beautiful with great views through the mountains in the evening light. When we pulled into Columbia Falls, we noticed a glow along the mountain ridge on the west side of the park. The moon was rising fast and we didn’t have to wait very long to watch it clear the mountains. It had a very different feel from the last moonrise I watched in the Khutzeymateen and was every bit as beautiful. A great start to our getaway in another great part of the world.
Justifiably, the Grizzly bears I spent time watching in the Khutzeymateen cast a long shadow and much of my time there and since returning has been spent thinking about them. I have to say that even if I had seen no wildlife, the scenery in the Khutzeymateen is brilliant and I would have been able to fill my memory cards with landscape imagery.
The inlet is relatively narrow, running roughly a mile wide for most of its length. The mountains rise steeply up from the water, blanketed in most places with dense rainforest. The trees are broken up by chutes, large and otherwise, where the snow has conspired to avalanche and by areas where the barren rock has prohibited the forest’s advance.
Throughout the day, chains of mist evolve across the mountainsides. Whether under a leaden sky or in bright, open sunshine, these ethereal cousins to clouds continue unabated. It was a true pleasure to just relax and watch them travel past. While looking for the valley’s wildlife, I enjoyed picking out details along the coast as we motored past in the little zodiac boat.
On the second to last afternoon, the rain abated and the sun lit up the valley a little before night stepped in. It whispered of great weather and that held true for the next couple of days.
We sailed a few miles westwards towards the mouth of the inlet on the last evening. The light was warm, so was the air – a nice time to photograph off the bow.
That night, the moon was full and when it cleared the ridge above the cove, it was a beautiful scene to behold.
The last morning, dawn was spectacular.
A co-operative cloud anchored itself just above the horizon as dawn broke west of Calgary. I set up in the dark on the Jumping Pound overpass with my camera and tripod. When the sunlight started to paint the clouds, I liked how it contrasted with the vehicles and the lines on the road.
I was up in Kananaskis a few days ago to explore the recently opened stretch of Highway 40 up to the Highwood Pass. Leaving home in the dark, I arrived at Wedge Pond just as light was creeping into the eastern edge of the sky.
We had several days of rain preceding this visit so I was unsure what the weather would be like in the mountains. The reports called for partly sunny with showers. From experience, that can mean anything from empty blue skies to heavy, wet gray clouds. I don’t mind either so I was happy to head up and find out. That morning the mist was swirling above the pond and rising up to meet the low hanging clouds that were stuffed into the valley. I trotted down to the water’s edge and moved along keeping an eye on Mount Kidd. The mountain catches the early pre-dawn Alpen glow and can be spectacular right through sunrise. The view over Wedge and up to Kidd whispered of something good that might come and I was happy to move around, watching and waiting.
Seven minutes later, pink light was hitting a few of the higher clouds. The lower clouds were breaking up and it seemed like a clear view of the mountain was coming forward.
It didn’t – the clean view was swallowed up by the clouds as the rich colours on Mount Kidd came in. I didn’t mind at all as a few fleeting openings afforded beautiful views of one or two of the peaks for the next couple of minutes.
I have not had such a dynamic encounter with the weather up at Wedge Pond and I had a great time. It was fun to play around with the moodiness under the clouds balanced (and thrown out of balance) with the sunrise opening above. I’m enjoying the late resurgence of summer we are enjoying but I found myself looking forward to the fall colours that always look so wonderful in this special place. I will be there and would be very happy if these clouds returned then too.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 17-40mm lens: 80 seconds at f/11 on ISO 800
During the tail-end of the full phase of August’s blue moon I went to the edge of the first of the Vermilion Lakes just west of the Banff townsite and set up for a night of long exposures. I drifted in and out of sleep but my timer remote stayed awake and kept running across the dark hours of the night. The clouds raced across the sky under pretty steady winds. With the longer exposures, they were stretched out and occasionally lent a mystical quality to the images.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 17-40mm lens: 658 seconds at f/11 on ISO 400
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 17-40mm lens: 80 seconds at f/11 on ISO 800
As it drew closer to the morning, the land started to brighten and one of the last images revealed more of the scenery.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 17-40mm lens: 238 seconds at f/11 on ISO 1000
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 17-40mm lens: 2 seconds at f/22 on ISO 100
I enjoy photographing the landscapes around Moraine Lake and realized it had been almost a year since I went up and waited for sunrise there. I clambered up the moraine, the geological rock pile at the eastern edge of the lake, near the end of August and shared a beautiful dawn with a few other people spread out along the pathways.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 17-40mm lens: 4 tenths of a second at f/11 on ISO 100
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 17-40mm lens: 2.5 seconds at f/20 on ISO 50
On this visit to the Valley of the Ten Peaks, a cloudless sky to the east allowed the early sunlight open passage to the mountains above the lake. They did their part and caught the red ribbons wonderfully.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 24-105mm lens: 1/13th of a second at f/11 on ISO 100
Even after the light had cooled there were still interesting images to be found around the valley.
Since the floods, I have been eager to drive up Highway 66 which runs in and out of the valleys where the Elbow River unwinds out of the mountains. A few weeks ago, the road reopened and I have been back into this quieter side of Kananaskis Country a couple of times since. On the first trip I went straight to Elbow Falls to see what remained. Rumours through June and July ranged from the Elbow Falls being reduced to a set of rapids through to vast swathes of land disappearing, replaced by river rock spread over the lost forest area. The former is not true – the falls remain, as seen in the image here from that first visit after the floods, and are still beautiful. The latter is very true in many places – many favourite spots, including the winding river path above the falls, have been drastically reshaped.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 500mm lens: 1/1000th of a second at f/4 on ISO 2500
On the last night in the Khutzeymateen there was a short break in the clouds right as the full moon was clearing the tree tops across the bay. This was the fourth moon of the season earning the distinction of being a blue moon. It seemed an appropriate way to end a spectacular visit to this wonderful inlet.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 17-40mm lens at 17mm: 2 seconds at f/22 on ISO 200
I have spent a fair bit of time hiking and travelling around Kananaskis Country. That said, I have only seen a small amount of its beautiful landscape. It is always wonderful to find a new place. On the weekend, I was revisiting a few favourite spots that I had not been able to see since the flood. Along the drive between two such spots, up Highway 66, the morning mists and fog were slowly rising up in the warming air in a small meadow I have passed by many times but never explored. I stopped this time for a few minutes to photograph the light and shadows playing with one another. There was a roar of water nearby but it was hidden deeper into the forest and I had another spot on my mind so I headed on.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 70-200mm lens at 81mm: 1/400th of a second at f/11 on ISO 400
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 70-200mm lens at 135mm: 1/200th of a second at f/11 on ISO 400
On my return past the same place an hour later, I pulled off and set out for a little exploration. I found a trail that led down from the meadow and into the woods. Following that for a few minutes, I walked up to the top of this small waterfall. It was the source of the roaring heard earlier. The water drops only a few metres but it falls into a narrow bowl of rock which intensifies the sound significantly.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 17-40mm lens at 17mm: 6 seconds at f/22 on ISO 50
A bit of mountain goating saw me step and then jump down into the bowl. Water vapour was heavy in the air which played a little havoc with the front of my lens but it was nothing a couple of cloths couldn’t handle over the time I was down there. I stayed for more than an hour – at one point just sitting down and enjoying this wonderful little place.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 17-40mm lens at 23mm: 5 seconds at f/22 on ISO 50
The stream is only a metre wide above and below the falls. At the base, the pool opens up to a few metres across. There were some signs of recent high water activity but it seems the flow was not enough to damage the trees and bushes that overhang the channel.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 17-40mm lens at 19mm: 2 seconds at f/16 on ISO 50
I believe this stream falls into the Elbow River but I’m not sure if it, or this waterfall, have their own names. I have to find out from a few of the locals who know Kananaskis Country in a way I hope to some day far down my path.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 17-40mm lens at 39mm: 5 seconds at f/22 on ISO 200
So, for me at least, this waterfall remains unnamed. In truth, I like it that way for now. I really enjoyed that narrow wedge of rock and water below the forest and will be returning there soon.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 24-105 lens: 6.0 seconds at f/6.3 on ISO 800
(click on any image to open a page with a higher resolution version)
A couple of nights ago, lightning was being thrown around by several large storm clouds as they spread out and rolled over the prairies. After a spectacular sunset in Kananaskis Country earlier (the image below), I had just drove out of the mountains when I saw these strikes lighting up both the fields and the clouds.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 17-40 lens: 1/160th of a second at f/5.6 on ISO 800
I ended up pulling off of the Trans-Canada Highway at Hermitage Road to watch this summer performance. It was just before 11pm when I set up my camera along a fence which was busy splitting up a meadow of wild grass. The moon was out and waxing near full so the land was gently lit up.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 24-105 lens: 2.5 seconds at f/5.6 on ISO 1600
It was warm but the mosquitos compelled me to put on a light jacket. When a breeze came up around midnight, it was a perfect night to be outdoors.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 24-105 lens: 10 seconds at f/8.0 on ISO 1600
Two hours flew by largely unnoticed before the storms had moved out of view and I decided to head home.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 24-105 lens: 6.0 seconds at f/6.3 on ISO 800
Bobbi and I got away to Emerald Lake last weekend for a little retreat. The valley is in the Yoho National Park in British Columbia, about two and a half hours from Calgary. We had a great time enjoying time on the land and enjoying the fine amenities offered by the Emerald Lake Lodge. We have to thank both sets of grandparents for taking care of Kezia and Kian. I spent most of the night out photographing around the water. The image above is looking down the stairs to the boathouse where you can rent canoes and row boats to take out on the lake. There was a wedding in the lodge where Cilantro’s restaurant is located across the bridge. The lights from the party and the bridge illuminated the little cabin and the stacked boats. Emerald Lake is a wonderful place to visit – we are already plotting our next return visit.
On the weekend, I found myself on a hill overlooking the farm fields south of Cochrane waiting for the morning to arrive. I had went out at 4 in the morning looking for the Northern Lights but they eluded me. This time of the year dawn comes early and by 4:30 there was already a bright line on the horizon to the east. I enjoyed listening to the birds waking up as I sat beside this gravel road hoping for a nice sunrise. As the sun prepared to rise, this wonderful cloud caught the early light and met all expectations that I brought to the day.
A few minutes later, the cloud hanging above the farmland took over the show. The colours and textures were brilliant. Dawn comes early but I’m rarely disappointed when I do force myself to roll out of bed and get out to enjoy it.
While the sun and the cloud were performing magic, the moon was full and glowing above the Rocky Mountains. I’m glad I had a look behind me while I was changing lenses as the view to the west was on equal terms with its eastern counterpart.
The Northern Lights on the weekend were beautiful. On Friday morning they were active from 10 pm through to 5 am Saturday morning. Fiery, green ribbons rippled under the stars with faint echoes of blue and purple streaming skyward.
(for a higher resolution version, please click on any picture)
When I received an email from Aurora Watch’s alert service, I was in Calgary finishing dinner with my friend Jack. We headed up to a hill that overlooks downtown to check the sky. Even with the orange glow in the atmosphere from the city’s lights, we could see shimmering swaths of green. That whet the appetite and we headed west along the Trans Canada Highway out of the city and into the rolling hills to the west. A small marsh south of Cochrane being our destination to take in the lights.
By the time we were at the pond, it was after midnight and the early wisps of color had intensified in color and solidity. The thick bands stretched west and east, from one horizon to the other. With the Northern Lights reflected in the water, there were some interesting images available. I also posted another photograph separately called The Phantom Menace which is a favourite of mine from the night. You can see that image here.
The aurora was at its most discrete around 2 am with beautiful details etched into the fabric swimming between land and sky. The Cree named these colourful displays the Dance of the Spirits. I really like that. On this evening, the spirits enjoyed a long spell on their dance floor.
With the east starting to brighten ahead of the coming sunrise, we were a bit restless for another viewpoint so we followed the road west for a little while. This small industrial plant was overlooking the fields and when we stopped to have a look, the aurora was pulsing in what turned out to be the final flurry of the night.
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.
A few images from the same night can be seen at this post.