A few days ago, the clouds were anchored along the eastern edge of the Rockies all afternoon and I was not sure how the sunset would develop. Well, I guess I was sure that the winter sun would go down early and fast but what the light would do was the question.
I found myself on the edge of Springbank, west of Calgary, at 5:30 and the clouds had stretched east across the prairies and were catching and filtering the rich glow from the sun now hidden behind the mountains.
It was a scene that didn’t require much input from me to create images. I did like the reflections on my car’s glass and hood so that provided an opportunity to play around a bit.
Bobbi and I are off to Sedona, Arizona tomorrow for a week – this landscape session provided a nice warm-up for the spectacular red rock scenery I’m looking forward to photographing down there.
I went out on the prairie a couple of times on the weekend. I was looking for owls. On the “hope to see” list were Great Horned, Snowy and Short-eared. I went to the back roads around Frank Lake. I encountered a couple of Snowies but it was too dark to photograph them. I returned to both locations in better light a couple of times but unsurprisingly they had both moved on. Nice to know they were around though. Short-eared proved elusive and I did not see any ears, short or otherwise.
I did find a great old barn set off in a remote spot with a couple of grain silos on the first evening. That scene was great on its own but the Great Horned Owl I saw perched in a window. The window frame was weathered with peeling red paint so character was not in short supply. The owl was shy once I stopped my car and it hopped inside the barn to perch on a beam. I set up a ways back from a west-facing window at the other end of the barn in the hopes that the owl might fly through it as dusk approached and it went out to start hunting.
A chilly wait through the golden light had no results and when the owl did head out, it flew through the eastern window. While I waited, a long lens and high ISO allowed for a couple of nice shadow dominated images. I left the owl the first night with it perched on a fencepost near the barn. When I returned home and looked at the images, I was surprised to see a second owl buried in the shadows inside the barn. It had been invisible to my eyes but had just barely resolved on the highest ISO images.
I returned two days later before dawn and saw the pair of owls working out of the same eastern window. I set up on the same western window and could see them through main entrance as the sun rose. Their activity wound down as the day wrestled with the night and soon they were perched on the same beams as before.
This time, I took a wide path around the side of the barn and was able to photograph each owl on their respective beams through the eastern window (per the image at the top of this post and directly below).
I returned to my original spot and as I came around the barn saw that one of the owls had flown up to the top of a silo. It was perched there scanning the fields. I guess it wanted one last snack before its nap.
It stayed up there for ten minutes and then flew along the fence-line, dropped on a fence post for a minute and then glided over the patchwork of snow and grass to a mound of earth a few hundred meters away.
I waited a while longer to see if the owl would come back or its mate would head out. Neither happened and I packed up as the owl inside the barn dropped off to sleep.
I’ll head back to see about that window again in a couple of weeks. Maybe they’ll give me an opportunity then. It was great to see these beautiful birds either way. They have amazing faces and I really enjoyed studying them for a couple of hours.
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.
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.
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
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 500mm lens: 1/000 of a second at f/4 on ISO 800
The evening light was soft and warm last night. I loved the colour in the coats of this small herd in Springbank. #83 was particularly interested and turned out to be particularly photogenic.
I’ve spent a lot of time this winter driving the township and range roads which divide the prairie up into a grid work of crisscrossing dirt roads. The primary goal has been to photograph Snowy owls during their winter stay here but I’m always happy to see bald eagles when I happen across them. These were two separate encounters. Above, the eagle was flying low over the fields west of Calgary and I parked at a driveway in time to photograph the bird flying past. In the photograph below, the eagle was perched in this tall tree near Gleichen east of Calgary for ten minutes while I watched before it launched and headed out over the fields.
A short collection of some images from around Bragg Creek over the last couple of weeks of fall.
I had a request from a client for a large volume of landscape photographs of Western Canada so I pulled together my favourite images from this area. I published a webpage with these images in a gallery. If you are interested, please click this link.
I grew up in a small valley in southwestern British Columbia. Our house faced a large meadow bounded by a creek on one side and the treed flanks of a mountain on the other three sides. The meadow had once been a field with several orchards and the behind the house were the remnants of a farm with barns, corrals and sheds. The buildings were worn down, leaning at odd angles but all held their own treasure of rusted tools, missing floorboards, broken machinery and weathered vehicles. It was a paradise for a kid and I loved that place. We lived there for about eight years and I know there were a few places I still didn’t fully explore. Living on the prairies now, I get to revisit the same objects as they dot the landscape – abandoned farmhouses, vehicles both hidden and exposed as well as many other iconic farm “things”. I’m working on a project tying the photographs to the people behind these farms – let’s just say that is a LONG term project. However, it’s a lot of fun making the photographs in and around the farms – a good escape to the boy I still am.
I will post more on the buildings, tools, etc. from around the farm but for this one, I’ll restrict the images to vehicles. These images are from places across Alberta and in eastern Saskatchewan, linger over the picture for the particular location. As always, click on any of the pictures to jump to a full page version.
Alas, this last vehicle, a combine harvester, is not forgotten but I like it so please allow the exception.
It’s funny the difference a few days can make. That’s true year round in this part of the world but I thought these pictures highlight how quickly things can change.
These winter photographs were made this afternoon in Springbank on the first day in over a week where it wasn’t frigidly cold (still -20 celsius).
And this fall harvest shot below was from just before Remembrance Day near Cochrane. These two farms are about 20 kilometers apart. I think this farmer is pretty glad he got his crop pulled up when he did.
When the Prairies get wet it is usually due to some pretty impressive storms. The first couple of weeks of July have been heavy with rain which seems to be about a month later than the last couple of years. The weather may not lend itself to days on the beach, it makes for some great photographic possibilities. With the wet comes saturated colors and, using a polarizer to cut the glare, you can create images that almost glow. The dark skies reveal the texture within the clouds and make beautiful backgrounds to landscape photographs.
I felt a bit bad watching these cows inside my car as the window and their backs took the brunt of the wind and rain.
So, I ventured out to get a couple of portraits and was rewarded with stern glares from the models and raindrops on the lens.
I liked this fellow’s optimism with the shorts. Prudence must have taken hold as he walked out the door with the toque and the long sleeve shirt.
A view of the Trans-Canada Highway looking westward as it disappears into the storm. Photograph made from the Springbank overpass just outside of Calgary.