I have completed a few themed galleries this weekend. It was nice to take a couple of hours and work on galleries that reach across my library.
The Winter Wildlife gallery draws on encounters with animals over the last four years. Some meetings were deliberate as with the snowy owls, where I drove out to find them. Some meetings were by chance, where I came upon them without planning.
The gallery can be found along with the other new ones, Abandoned Prairie and Into The Mountains on the Portfolios page.
After the big snowstorm Monday night, the clouds cleared and towards the evening, the light was beautiful and I was pulled outside.
Before the sun set, I photographed the sunlight on the tree boughs along the path to the Elbow river. Getting down to the river, the snow was over a foot deep. It was fun to walk along and photograph this river delta just before night fell, looking for interesting relationships in the landscape.
I walked to the far side before I found some breaks in snow and ice where I could see the water.
I used a telephoto lens to close in on the ice formations with a tripod to keep the camera steady over the exposures which stretched up to 10 seconds.
I returned home under moonlight which was very enjoyable as well
Yesterday was Kian’s 5th birthday. He helped plan out the party – well he chose the construction theme – his mommy did the organization and then our little tribe put the room at the Redwood Meadows House together.
Kian was so happy to have most of his cousins and his friends there. He had a great time and, with the laughing and shrieking going on all afternoon, I think all of the other kids did too. The bouncy castle was a big hit. Below, Nolan and Kashton take a break in the middle of the castle.
Austin was the heavy hitter who took down the tractor piñata, the kids descended on the spoils straight away.
And so, to my wonderful boy, I love you. Thank you for you. Thank you for who you are, who you are becoming and who you make me be.
Yesterday, I was hiking in Kananaskis Country, west of Bragg Creek, morning along a trail that winds through the forest. The trees are often well spaced out and allow a lot of streaming sunlight to reach down. The highlight of the trek was finding a small herd of White-tailed Deer that were moving slowly towards the hills.
I stepped off the trail and shadowed their progress for a few minutes. I waited for one deer to step into a shaft of light and then tried to create an interesting image.
There were a couple occasions where everything lined up and I got close to what was in my head. In these pictures, I like the sense of the forest and the magic of sunlight.
I was enjoying the stroll in the woods when I was alone, save for the birdsong and angry squirrel reports, but crossing paths with these deer made it a very memorable day.
The morning’s are still dark when I’m downtown so the lights from the buildings and the vehicles create these illuminated pools. With a longer shutter speed, I sometimes play with stretching these pockets of lights while capturing the motion of vehicles driving around Calgary’s streets.
Leaving the south edge of Calgary this morning, the snow was flying and there was fog growing denser as we went further east. My friend Jeff and I were driving on 22X heading towards the Siksika Nation to see if we could find any snowy owls along the range roads in the prairie outside of Calgary. We made a straight line to an abandoned barn on the edge of the Siksika land that a local there had told me was a favourite location for a snowy year after year. I’ve been there a couple of times this year but have yet to see the owl but it’s a great drive down toward the river. Tracing fresh tracks in the snow-covered gravel roads, we carved a wide rectangle around the outer edges of Namaka Lake searching. Along the way, the fog lifted, the sky brightened and the snow settled right down. Just over two hours in and we hadn’t seen any wildlife following the herd with the exception of a couple of magpies and one acrobatic raven.
And then, once pointed west and heading back towards Calgary, we spotted a snowy along the same back road where I photographed one a few weeks ago. It seems to be the same female but I’m not an owl expert so they may only be similar. Either way, it was fantastic to find this one. And she was a wonderful partner to make a few images with. She watched us for a few minutes and then flew off to another telephone pole. Dutifully, we followed, parked a little ways away and then stepped closer. She flew again after a few more minutes. We followed to a third pole and a fourth. The last leap into the air carried her across the field to a distant perch where she could continue her day without further interruption. Along the way, we both rattled off a bunch of images and had a lot of fun.
Just a great morning and I’m really happy Jeff was able to see and photograph a snowy owl in the wild.
Last weekend I was touring around Bragg Creek’s back roads in the morning looking for wildlife. I did not have any close encounters but had this great moment where I watched this moose dash across the meadow and into the dormant forest. Moose have a grace of movement that you wouldn’t expect from a huge animal. With the mild winter so far, the grass hasn’t been blanketed by snow which allowed this bull to keep a fast pace and he was gone in a few seconds up a slope that would have taken me a few minutes.
The storm blew over in waves as I trekked around the Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes in the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park yesterday. Obscuring the far shoreline first, then moving across the ice and rolling over me. This cycle repeated at both locations and allowed for some moody landscape photographs.
At the Lower Kananaskis there was a stretch of open water below the control station which manages the flow between the two lakes. The patterns along the edge of the ice worked nicely with the distant lines in the forests and mountains.
Away from the water’s edge there was a man ice fishing on the lake. I made this one image of him standing over his fishing hole – the compression of the lens telephoto lens makes him look quite close to the edge but he seemed a safe distance.
Upper Kananaskis Lake is completely frozen over now. The blizzard was at its height when I was there so I waited between waves where I could see across the lake to the rock island and silhouettes of the peaks looming over the west edge of the lake.
Spent one morning last weekend roaming the back roads east of Calgary looking for the snowy owls again.
I found this owl just outside of Cheadle. It was a one-eyed beast that seemed defiant in the face of a strong wind out of the west.
Saturday was cold and clear, -19°C and blue sky. It was a perfect morning for a drive and I headed out on the prairies east of Calgary to see what I could find. I ended up working with a stoic, one-eyed snowy owl but along the way I found this weathered barn and weather vane that lured me to stop.
I originally had a black and white image in mind when I was composing this but the color version looks alright too.
Thursday night I was downtown photographing night scenes. Hunched over my camera, concentrating on some abstract composition my attention was torn away by a blur of motion above me. Looking up, I saw a flash of red and then… nothing.
I climbed up a fire escape on a lovely old brick building and that’s when I had a good look at the cause of my distraction. He landed on the flight of stairs above and then leaped over the railing (as seen above).
At this point he was well positioned for an action pose and I managed to take one photo as he was staring at me. A second later and he was scaling another wall up towards the roof top. Keeping up to him without a jet pack, flying surfboard or some other speedy contraption was unlikely so I just stood and watched as he spun a web and swung out of sight.
I went back down the escape and walked around the corner keeping an eye out for the webbed one. I turned around intent on heading up the alley and saw him scaling a brick wall. After clearing the doorway our neighbourhood friend launched upwards into the darkness where I lost him again.
I didn’t see the masked vigilante for a little while and thought he might have gone. I was heading back to my car when I looked back over my shoulder and caught a sliver of his mask peering around a gate entrance. I carried on to my car in one of the city’s underground parkades and was still rather surprised when the man spider ran down a line of parked cars and vaulted over my car. I wish I had captured the whole sequence but I was only able to take one sharp shot.
At that point I was thinking that my chance encounter wasn’t chance. I know photography was one of this particular superhero’s interests but I can’t say whether he was watching me out of curiosity about just what I was photographing or if he thought I may be a villain up to no good. I should have asked, not that it was likely he would have responded. When I pulled out of the garage, I had one last good look at this mysterious fellow.
I wasn’t thinking about it in the moment but, looking at the pictures, I wonder why he wasn’t in full outfit – was he just exercising a little after the day job, the superhero’s equivalent of going out for a stroll? No idea, these and other questions are still puzzling around in my mind. The imagination wanders… it was a very interesting evening.
2011 was a good year for my landscape photography as I got into a variety of beautiful scenes and had the opportunity to create some interesting images. Tonquin Valley and Kaua’i stand out in particular and I also enjoyed working through the seasons on the prairie. Here is a large set of photographs which I was happy to add to my portfolio over the past year.
Pink sunlight streaked across the ceiling of clouds and painted the tips of The Ramparts in Jasper National Park’s Tonquin Valley.
The warm light of late afternoon in the Tonquin Valley wrapped around the mountains and the clouds just ahead of dusk. A polarizer allowed me to play with the reflection and transparency of different parts of Amethyst Lake and I loved how this image ended up.
I seem to have an addiction for this weathered log and this view across the Vermilion Lakes towards Mount Rundle. The hot springs that trickle into the lake open a large hole in the ice in the winter revealing the chaotic patterns of grass, sand and rock underneath.
I’m sure I’ll continue to work in this location again this year.
The Elbow Falls are in Kananaskis not too far from my home in Bragg Creek. I tour up there regularly throughout the year. Photographing the area in winter is a favourite when the ice and snow layer more patterns on the textures in the rock and running water.
I found this interesting chunk of ice just above the falls. I played with the shutter speed until I found a balance that I liked between the movement and energy in the water and the repeating patterns in the ice.
A late snowstorm in my backyard was illuminated by sunlight that broke through the clouds for a minute.
Noctilucent clouds high in the atmosphere are lit up by the sun creating this amazing midnight scene. I was driving back from a late landscape shoot and had to stop and was happy to set everything up again. I had not seen a sky like this before and haven’t since. Thank you to Olivier Du Tré for identifying what these clouds are – until he corrected me, I had thought they were a strange incarnation of the Aurora Borealis. Note: please do click on Olivier’s link and visit his site, his photography is high art.
A weekend at a friend’s cabin on Buffalo Lake, east of Red Deer, found me on the beach with a chair during a gentle slide into night.
A storm threatening rain and lightning curled and stretched above the prairie in Springbank, west of Calgary, Alberta.
A broken fence caught my eye on one of Bragg Creek’s back roads and led me into this forest which had the best of autumn’s colours on display.
Wedge Pond, along the Kananaskis Trail (Alberta Provincial Highway 40), captured my heart for the month where summer gave way to autumn. The classic shot is with Mount Kidd reflected in the calm water but I found opportunities for beautiful images from many locations all around the lake and the surrounding hills. This image shows Fortress Mountain reflected in the pond surrounded by fog and the autumn colors. Another magical spot I’m looking forward to heading back to soon.
…And, I could not escape the siren’s call of the classic reflection of Kidd under alpen glow before sunrise in the calm water on Wedge Pond.
There were a few sunrises over the prairies that I was amazed to be in the middle of this fall. The light was delicate and warm, washing over the fields and sharing an incredible glow. Here, in Springbank along Highway 8, the red landscape contrasted beautifully with the blues and purples in the sky.
Frank Lake is near High River and is an important staging ground for bird migrations in the spring and fall. Waiting for one of the flocks to launch off the water, I was enchanted by this abstracted landscape with the steam rising off of the lake and the more subtle elements which define the prairies for me. Namely, clouds, sky, farmsteads and long horizons.
Anticipating that winter would be attacking Alberta with frigid temperatures and heavy snow, we booked a December trip to Hawaii’s garden island, Kaua’i. The winter was, and remains, fairly mild but we had no regrets spending a great stretch of days on the coast, in the ocean and up along the ridges of this wonderful place. The images above and below are from separate sunrises from a stretch of shoreline just north of Kapa’a on Kaua’i's east coast.
Waimea Canyon is called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific and is worthy of as much time as you can spend there. On our way back down from the Kalalau Valley overlook along the Koke’e Road (Highway 550) the clouds rushing across the western slopes of the island were lit up by the evening sun with some light reflecting off of the asphalt for a little extra detail.
On our last evening in Kaua’i, Bobbi and I hiked a little north of Ke’e Beach and enjoyed the many faces of the Na Pali coast leading up to and following sunset.
Almost an hour after sunset, a long exposure revealed the colours still present in the sky over Hanalei Bay and further along the coast towards Bali Hai.
The collision of incoming waves hitting those rebounding off of the vertical cliffs sent sprays of water 60 or more feet into the air. With the sun filtering through the water droplets, a beautiful image was there for the making.
Shortly after the sun set into the ocean, the fading light took on a green hue. I have heard about that but it was the first time I seen it. The light changed from warm yellows and oranges to green quickly. I was very surprised how quickly it changed again to the purple hues of late evening in the tropics.
Thank you for wandering through a few of the places I dug my tripod legs into over the past year.
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.
I’ve been carving out a little time to review my photography over the past year. It’s been nice to recall some good adventures and revisit some of my favourites from 2011. I spent a fair bit of time sitting in the snow waiting, driving back roads looking and hiking game trails exploring so it was a great year. I crossed paths with a few animals and here are my favourite images from those encounters.
This moose and her calf were grazing along Highway 40 west of Highwood Pass in Kananaskis. She was beautiful and here I was able to make a nice side portrait of her as she watched her young one prancing around.
Where we live we have a lot of opportunity to see white-tailed and mule deer. I photographed many groups and individuals of both over the last year. This white-tailed buck was wary of me at first but after passing his sniff test he returned to his wandering.
The Great Gray Owls are present throughout the woods and meadows that I often wander through but they seem to appear only when they want to be seen. I was able to have some long encounters throughout the year and I continue to be amazed by these magical creatures.
I wanted to photograph more bears this year and I spent a lot of time reading about behaviour, habits and their movements through the year. It paid off and I was able to enjoy some very good encounters where they were not threatened by my presence and I was able to photograph them safely.
This grizzly encounter was a surprise. Our group was busy photographing the raw wilderness in the Tonquin Valley on the eastern shore of Amethyst Lake when we noticed this boar walking over the rocks and bushes a couple hundred feet away. He saw us at the same time and though he didn’t seem threatened, he wasn’t interested in getting any closer either. He made a quarter turn and walked along the shoreline away from us.
This last one is just a brief glimpse of a humpback whale that Bobbi and I had on a sail we went on in Kaua’i. I like the abstract aspects of the image overall and it is the source of one of my goals which is to photograph more marine wildlife in the coming year.
I felt sad banishing the runner-up images back to the library without giving them a chance to stretch a bit so I’ve put them into a slideshow here. Have a look at the near misses if you are so inclined. Thanks for taking a stroll through 2011 with me.
Yesterday, I went out for a morning photography tour along the Vermilion Lakes just outside of Banff. I enjoy returning to this area and usually am rewarded by the wildlife, the landscapes or something little thing that draws my eye. I settled into a favourite spot along the second Vermilion Lake where there are some hot springs that seep out of the mountainside, collect into a network of small streams and keep a few pools of water free of the snow-covered sheet of ice that hides the rest of the lake.
Mount Rundle stands directly between the lakes and the point where the sun rises at this time of the year so you need some broken clouds to be in the right place to catch the warm light.
I was able to enjoy three consecutive sunrises down on the eastern shore of Kaua’i in the last days of our trip in December. I went to a couple of different spots between Kealia and Kapa’a and each offered a different perspective of the coastline. Here are a few of the photographs I liked from these mornings on the water with the rising sun.
A defiant shelf of rock juts out into the surf while the sun drives through a set of breaking clouds. Before dawn, these clouds were knitted together and lashed the coast south of Kealia with a heavy rain. I was happy they had the good graces to separate and catch the early morning light.
A break between waves allow the water resting in these small tidal pools to reflect the color in the sky along the shore just north of Kapa’a.
Spray from the waves hitting the rocks was a challenge and demanded frequent spot cleanings. In this image above, I found the water spots on my lens were diffracting the sunlight in the middle of the image which added to the motion in the water and drew my eye up to the sun. I liked these rocks grouped just off shore and enjoyed trying to show the movement of the waves and sunlight in that time just after sunrise there.
The color lasts for only a couple of minutes this close to the equator as the sun seems to jump into the sky very quickly. This large cloud bank was in good position to catch the pink light as the sun pulled clear of a distant storm on the edge of the horizon.
The sun halo I could create here stole the show from the foreground rocks so I centered on it and eliminated any strong elements that would distract from this interesting optical illusion.
On two separate evenings, I photographed the sunset from a viewpoint overlooking Hanalei Bay. It is the wet, stormy season on Kaua’i's north coast which was still warm and pretty sunny. It does help to create amazing clouds and when the sun was long gone I was still shooting the clouds, the moon and the afterglow. The picture below was from a few minutes earlier when the glow up the coast was at its strongest point.
After photographing sunrise on Namaka Lake in the Siksika Reserve east of Calgary, I toured the nearby back roads for wildlife. I found a few mule deer standing in tall grass and a couple of charismatic old barns but my subject of desire was the snowy owl (Bubo scandiacus). There is a healthy population of these owls between Calgary and Brooks. Photographing these wonderful raptors has been on my list for a couple of winters now but yesterday was the first trip into the prairie east of Calgary dedicated to the purpose. The first owl I found was a telephone pole hopper so we traveled together from pole to pole for half an hour before it flew up into a stand of trees (as above) and then on to the open fields.
I saw two more snowy owls while working my way back home on Highway 22X. The first was flighty and I only photographed it flying away from me over the fields.
The last owl of the day I saw just before 11 am. It stared me down from its perch on a fence post and then took off, flying low along the ditch before disappearing behind a small hill. I will be back in the next couple of weeks and try to get one of these beautiful birds to fly towards me.
This time of year the northern coast of Kaua’i receives the heavy swells that hit the shoreline unchecked from the open water of the Pacific. I was waiting for the sun to rise and the low light of dawn allowed me to use a shutter speed of four seconds. This long exposure blurred the rows of spiky waves softening them into a supporting role, allowing this dramatic chunk of rock standing apart from the shore to be the dominant subject in the image.
On a grocery stop in Kapa’a the kids and I watched this feral cat strut around the parking lot. It never broke into a run but it chased away roosters, hens and one small dog with the piercing stare and an aggressive posture very much reminding me of the mountain lions from the Rocky Mountains in my part of the world. This cat made it very clear to me that she ruled this stretch of blacktop, simply allowing people to park their cars but ceding no authority to them. Even the cats in Hawai’i are incredible.
Merry Christmas from our crazy little family. Thank you for all of the season’s greetings that people have sent our way. We hope you have a great time with your family and friends over the holidays. We’re heading down to play in the sand at Perfect Beach (as my children have labelled a small spit of shore near Kapa’a that they love to swim off of) so we will be taking advantage of the warm weather here in Hawaii.
Before we came to Kauai for our family holiday over the Christmas break, I photographed the kids in Redwood Meadows with Santa Claus while he was taking a break from the North Pole. While I was setting up the lights, Bobbi and I snuck in a family shot on the set.
Before I was mesmerized by the Rainbow Eucalyptus trees at the Keahua Arboretum in Wailua’s highlands, I walked through the forest paths to get a feel for the area. There was one spot near the stream that divides the park where Hibiscus blossoms were spread across the ground below the trees they had fallen from. This flower was tucked into a curve in a tree root. With the humidity, I don’t know whether the flower had just fallen or had been on the ground for a few days. Either way it was beautiful and fun to photograph.
I went upland to the Keahua Arboretum in Wailua yesterday hunting for a native species that I wanted to shoot. Of course by shoot I mean photograph and the target species was a type of tree. The Rainbow Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus deglupta, is one of the most incredible trees I have ever seen. The bark is made of multicolored hues ranging across bright green, red and deep purple. The trees are tall and slender with branches only starting about 40′ up. The patterns in the tree trunks are beautiful and I spent a couple of hours alternating between composing images and ducking under shelter from the intermittent rain showers.
The gnarled roots share the distinctive colors and seem to provide a shelter for new growth at the base of the trees. These micro landscapes presented interesting elements to work with.
The stand of trees are clustered around a grassy slope that is part of the 30 acre forest park. The park is divided by the Keahua stream with the stand of eucalyptus being on the far side. You can drive across but I didn’t want to take chances with my rental car so I walked across the foot deep water. A very small price to pay to see these amazing trees.
The trees can be found alone or in small groves around the island but I enjoyed heading up to this retreat in highlands at the base of Mount Wai’ale’ale. Aside from the rainbows, there are mango and monkeypod trees that stand out from the verdant forest. The arboretum is a special place with an appeal that stems not just from the trees but also the solitude and peacefulness that you can find there. When the sunlight broke through the clouds and filtered down it created great spot lighting on the trees which kept me there a while longer.
Kauai is also called the Garden Island. The lush vegetation that blankets the land from the edge of the beaches and up to the peaks of the mountains makes the name an obvious choice. I’ve spent a couple of mornings on the grounds photographing the leaves of the plants that line the walkways and the paths. The patterns and colors are amazing and I will definitely spend more time with them over the next couple of weeks.
I haven’t learned their names yet so my apologies for not being able to provide a little more detail about the species. I have a book of Hawaiian trees and shrubs so, if there are quiet moments, I will endeavour to shore up that gap.