Posts tagged “winter

Snowy Owls on the prairie

Ground flight effect - 2014 © Christopher Martin
I went out several times to photograph Snowy Owls this year but found them to be fewer in number and more elusive.  The ones I did find were less interested in me than the ones I found last year (here, here and here) so there were no long or close encounters.  I love watching them and it was a thrill just to see the ones I did find.  I photographed this one on February 22nd and was the last one I saw this winter.

A wing over the prairie - 2014 © Christopher Martin

We’ll have to see if next year is a good one for Snowies on the prairies east of Calgary.


Dark snow

Night snow - 2014 © Christopher Martin

A blizzard swept out of the mountains on the weekend.  The ground had been almost bare but winter felt everyone’s enthusiasm for spring was premature.  The snow fell through the night and in the morning there was almost a foot blanketing the grass, the trees and almost anything else that doesn’t move.  In the middle of the storm, I went outside to watch the snow and enjoy the sound of the huge flakes touching down and watching them tumble through the darkness.


A blizzard at Elbow Falls

Elbow Falls - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 24-105mm lens at 65mm: 2.5 seconds at f/16 on ISO 200

I went back to Elbow Falls for the third time in the last couple of weeks.  With the snowstorm that blew in on the weekend, I was drawn back to see another face to the area.  Heavy snowflakes had piled up in the trees and across the rocks with more falling rapidly when I was up there.  A slip on the ice was my payment for passage but I liked the scene I slid into.  The falling snow gave the trees a charcoal sketched look while the rocks and water in the river had texture and character that seemed to suit black and white processing.


Elbow Falls in winter’s clothing again

Elbow Falls in winter's clothing - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII + 17-40mm lens at 17mm: 1/3rd of a second at f/16 on ISO 200

With fresh snow on the ground, I went back up to Elbow Falls to see how the valley would look in a return to winter clothing.  I was there only a week ago and the change, beyond the cold, was significant.  I love snow-covered landscapes so I found this visit to Kananaskis to be a very beautiful one.  I think spring is coming soon but when winter is this pretty, I don’t mind a little delay.

Early morning blues - 2014 © Christopher MartinThe blues before dawn…
Canon 5DIII + 17-40mm lens at 26mm: 3.2 seconds at f/11 on ISO 200
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2014 © Christopher MartinFirst light in the mountains
Canon 5DIII + 17-40mm lens at 25mm: 1.3 seconds at f/11 on ISO 50
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2014 © Christopher MartinSunshine into the mist
Canon 5DIII + 17-40mm lens at 17mm: 1/8th of a second at f/16 on ISO 50

 


Wind in the mountains

 Wind in the mountains - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Canon 5DIII + 300mm f/4 lens: 1/4000th of a second at f/11 on ISO 400

The winds that came with the weather change last weekend were heavy when I left my home in Bragg Creek for the Banff National Park in the morning.  When I got into the mountains, the Bow Valley was pretty calm but higher up on the slopes, the snow was blowing around in opaque sheets while the clouds raced by above.  Watching from the Vermillion Lakes shoreline, I was mesmerized by the view of Mount Rundle.  The sun catching the wispy snow drawn out over the slopes before fraying into the shadow as it flew over the cliffs was beautiful to watch.


A Winter Weasel

Stoat Alert - 2014 © Christopher Martin

This Ermine, a short-tailed weasel in its winter coat, was bounding in the snow hunting.  They are so quick that a sharp image can be a challenge.  The bright day and relatively uncluttered scene helped the auto focus and I nabbed a couple of shots before it skipped into deeper brush and out of sight.

Winter Weasel - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Three years ago, we had a weasel that set up for a couple of months in a woodpile in our backyard.  I haven’t seen one since then so it was great fun to have a short encounter again.

Snow bound - 2014 © Christopher Martin


Ice and Snow: lines and shadows

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The waves of mild temperatures then bitter cold that have been winter’s pattern this year have played havoc with the ice.

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Along the Elbow River the once smooth sheets of water frozen layer on layer, have buckled and split along the channel.

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The temperature went into free fall yesterday but the blue skies pulled me outside this morning. Near the edge of the ice down the Elbow I spent some time photographing the forms created by the blanket of snow, broken ice cover, and the long shadows of winter.

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Aurora Borealis over the Elbow River

Aurora over the Elbow - 2014 © Christopher MartinAurora over the Elbow
Canon 5DIII + 24mm f/1.4 lens: 2.5 seconds at f/1.6 on ISO 1600

The Northern Lights came to life over my home in Redwood Meadows a couple of nights ago.  I threw on some winter gear and walked down to the Elbow River with my camera and tripod.  The moon was waning but was close to full and lit up the snow and ice so my headlamp wasn’t needed.  I went out on the ice and watched the Aurora ripple across the northern quarter of the sky.  It was a cold and very late show.  And I loved it.

Note: Click on any photograph to open a higher resolution version of the image.

Aurora fire - 2014 © Christopher MartinNorthern Lights on ice
Canon 5DIII + 24mm f/1.4 lens: 1.6 seconds at f/2.5 on ISO 1600

 

Aurora Flare - 2014 © Christopher MartinAurora Flare
Canon 5DIII + 24mm f/1.4 lens: 4 seconds at f/2.5 on ISO 1600

The colors dimmed after an hour or so and I could barely make out the lights.  The camera could still resolve them and I liked the subtle color in one of the last images from the evening.

Fading Aurora - 2014 © Christopher MartinFading lights
Canon 5DIII + 24mm f/1.4 lens: 3.2 seconds at f/2 on ISO 1600

 

Searching for the Northern Lights - 2014 © Christopher MartinSearching for the Northern Lights
Canon 5DIII + 24-105mm f/4 lens at 24mm: 8 seconds at f/8 on ISO 1600


Storms and light trails over Sedona

Storm over Sedona - 2014 © Christopher MartinStorm over Sedona
Canon 5D Mark III + 24-105mm f/4 lens at 105mm: 1/13th of a second at f/11 on ISO 100

Rain has been a rare commodity in northern Arizona for the last couple of months.  When clouds started to roll in from the north while we were down there people were hopeful that they would drop some of their precipitation before moving on.  The rain did come eventually and the evening before I hiked along the airport trail to watch the storm’s approach.

Winter storm - 2014 © Christopher MartinWinter storm in Northern Arizona
Canon 5D Mark III + 24-105mm f/4 lens at 65mm: 1/10th of a second at f/11 on ISO 100

I was content to watch the blues and greys in the sky deepen with night coming.  However, a break in the clouds to the west allowed for some color to break through and I turned my attention out over West Sedona’s forested cityscape.

West Sedona at night - 2014 © Christopher MartinWest Sedona at night
Canon 5D Mark III + 24-105mm f/4 lens at 58mm: 2.5 seconds at f/11 on ISO 200

There was an uneven stream of traffic passing below me towards the airport and the lookouts around the mesa.  Long exposures of cars driving up and down the road to the airport seemed to work well with this sunset.

Sunset and car lights in Sedona - 2014 © Christopher MartinSunset and car lights in Sedona
Canon 5D Mark III + 24-105mm f/4 lens at 50mm: 128 seconds at f/16 on ISO 1600

Light trails up to sunset - 2014 © Christopher MartinLight trails up to sunset
Canon 5D Mark III + 24-105mm f/4 lens at 24mm: 30 seconds at f/16 on ISO 800


Winter Hummingbirds

Anna's Hummingbird - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5D Mark III + 300mm f/4 lens: 1/800th of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600

… Not in Alberta though.  Bobbi and I were in Sedona, Arizona last week and we learned that there was one species of Hummingbird that stays in the area through the winter.  In the spring and summer, there can be up to 14 different types of Hummingbirds there but only the Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna) will spend the full year.

Touchdown - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5D Mark III + 300mm f/4 lens: 1/800th of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600

I went to the Red Rock State Park where I had been told a couple of these birds had staked out the feeder put out by the park staff as their territory.  Tucked off to the side of the visitor center, they have a sheltered garden with native trees surrounding a few benches and various bird feeders catering to those who overwinter nearby.  The Hummingbird feeder is in a slightly unusual position beside an exit door and close to the large bay windows of smoked glass.  I suppose it allows people to stand close to the window on the inside and watch these speedy fellows at close range.  I liked the clean background afforded by the opaque window so it suited my purposes.

Hovering around - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5D Mark III + 300mm f/4 lens: 1/800th of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600

I believe there were two individuals that I saw but they never appeared at the same time so it could have been one, two or more as I’m not familiar with this species and could easily mistake the unique number observed.  Regardless, I was entranced by their iridescent feathers, the speed and precision of these birds as I always am with Hummingbirds.  It will be several months until they return to my home so it was a treat to spend some time with them last week.

Incoming - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5D Mark III + 500mm f/4 lens and 1.4X extender: 1/3200th of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 3200


Winter at Red Rock Crossing

Winter under the Cathedral - 2014 © Christopher MartinWinter at Red Rock Crossing
Canon 5D Mark III + 24-105mm f/4 lens at 24mm: 1/8th of a second at f/16 on ISO 200

Winter in Sedona is a relative term.  I spent the morning scrambling over the odd icy patch but was in shorts for most of the day.  It can snow here but only a few times a year.  Coming from Canada’s frozen lands, I find this part of Arizona’s version of this season very appealing.  I hiked around for much of the day and ended up at Red Rock Crossing in the afternoon.  Cathedral Rock is a siren’s call for artists and I spent hours enjoying the views across Oak Creek and up to the red rocks.  I love the colour palette with the gray branches of the dormant trees, the colourful rocks above and below with the yellow grasses providing a nice bridge to tie them together.  A beautiful place to spend time.


De-icing at YYC

De-icing at YYC - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5D Mark III + 500mm f/4 lens: 1/6400 seconds at f/4 on ISO 320

A member of the ground crew at the Calgary International Airport does the critical work of de-icing the airplane during a cold sunrise well below freezing in Alberta, Canada.


Enjoying winter with the chickadees

Black-capped Chickadee in sunlight - 2013 © Christopher Martin

After a nice break over Christmas where I was outside playing with my kids and walking along the river, I’m enjoying winter now.  Following one of the cold snaps, the chickadees that visit our backyard seemed happy to be flying around in the -5°C weather after -30°C the day before.  They were flitting back and forth between the feeder and the tree beside our second floor deck which allowed me to practice capturing their launches off of the evergreen branches.

Chickadee flight - 2013 © Christopher Martin
The mid-flight images were not successful in the least (not shown – nothing worthwhile…) but I’m trying different strategies as me and auto focus are not quick enough to track their small bodies in their darting, quick flight movements.  For now, I was happy to spend some time with these little birds in my backyard while the sun drifted in and out of the clouds.

Wings up - 2013 © Christopher Martin-

One-eyed Chickadee - 2013 © Christopher Martin-

Flight preparation - 2013 © Christopher Martin


Happy New Year’s

Standing tall amid winter on the prairie - 2013 © Christopher Martin

The first day of the year was a bright, sunny one in the Foothills.  I took a little drive through the backroads near my home in the afternoon and found this resolute young tree to be the right subject for the first photograph of 2014.

We sent 2013 packing in style and had fun welcoming in 2014.  The kids didn’t make it to midnight but we did a countdown for them when my daughter woke up in the night.  It was great to spend the night with our good friends and hope everyone was able to enjoy their New Year’s Eve in the way that works for them.

From my family to yours, we wish you a year of happiness, health, good surprises and the opportunities to make it a great year.  Happy New Year!


Birds from a visit to the George C. Reifel Sanctuary

Heron at Reifel - 2013 © Christopher Martin - 68547I went to the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary on Sunday.  I was hoping to see Saw-Whet Owls but with the cold snap that hit Vancouver and the Lower Mainland a few days before, I was told they had disappeared.  Hardier birds were hanging around the snowy pathways so I wasn’t disappointed with the visit.   This Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) was hunting in the shallows near a blind and wandered very close.
Sandhill Squawk - © Christopher Martin-71887A Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) squawks to its family nearby.
Sandhill Exhalation - 2013 © Christopher MartinThe same bird exhales a puff of warm air.

Pileated Woodpecker - © Christopher Martin-70987A Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) drums on an old tree for insects.A male Mallard's iridescent cap - 2013 © Christopher MartinA Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) swims between the ice chunks in a brackish pond.
Trouble doubled - 2013 © Christopher MartinTwo female Mallards waddle down the pathway.
Wood duck perch - 2013 © Christopher MartinA pair of Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa) share a perch over the water.
Crane Flight - 2013 © Christopher MartinA small flight of Sandhill Cranes transit between ponds at the sanctuary.


A Christmas moose… or two

Bull moose grazing - 2013 © Christopher Martin
My parents and I went out for our fairly annual moose run this morning.  The kids give the drive to look for wildlife a pass as they were busy assembling new toys and reading new books.  We found two bull moose in a line of aspen along a ridge and watched them walking for a few minutes.  They dropped down through the deep snow into a meadow of scrubby willows nearby and set about grazing on the slender branches.

Antler free - 2013 © Christopher Martin
One of the moose had shed its antlers while the other still carried a beautiful rack.  Both were big, strong boys and it was great to see them in such good health here in the middle of winter.

Reaching up - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Aside from that, it was nice to share an encounter with these wonderful animals with my parents on Christmas morning.

A little shy - 2013 © Christopher Martin


Winter’s raptor

Prairie hunter - 2013 © Christopher Martin

The Rough-legged hawks (Buteo lagopus) have arrived along the prairies with winter back.  Along with Snowy owls, they will dominate the skies until well into spring.

Launch - 2013 © Christopher Martin
I was excited to see Snowies a couple of times in the morning last weekend but they were less enthused to see me and flew away before I could stop.  This hawk was much more tolerant, I was able to photograph it for half an hour as it perched and flew along the fence line.

Rough command - 2013 © Christopher Martin


It is too cold!

We are just coming out of a long cold snap here on the eastern flanks of the Rockies.  Temperatures started out around -10°C (14°F) last week and then dropped to -25°C (-13°F) a couple of days ago and have stayed there.  This image is from a stretch of the Elbow River just a couple hundred meters from my home in Redwood Meadows (west of Calgary).  Most of the river there is now iced over but I haven’t been back at dawn to photograph the difference.

Winter along the Elbow River - 2013 © Christopher Martin
Apparently we start climbing upwards later today and should be just below freezing by the weekend.  That will feel balmy – I hope the forecasts hold!  I love the winter landscapes but this year when the temperature fell below about -15 my enthusiasm for the season fell too.  Maybe some powder skiing on the weekend will remind me of the upside of winter.


Migrating through the Rockies

Rocky migration - 2013 © Christopher Martin

A skein of Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) broke from the standard V formation as they navigated through the Bow Valley corridor.  It may have been wind shear out of the mountains that pushed the birds around but as I watched them rise over a forested hill and bank around a massive peak, I had a notion they were playing as they flew along.  Very likely just my imagination having a bit of a run but I enjoyed watching the constantly changing pattern created by their silhouettes against the Banff National Park’s early winter landscape.


A blizzard and a stream

Winter landscape - 2013 © Christopher Martin

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.

In the blizzard - 2013 © Christopher Martin

The trees were soon cloaked in white, leaving the water alone to provide a little colour in the landscape.

Little rapids - 2013 © Christopher Martin

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.

The blizzard raven - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Near the end of the walk, a raven flew overhead – the snow visible between us.


Winter residents: Mountain and Black-capped Chickadees

Black-capped Perched - 2013 © Christopher Martin

(click on any image to open a page with a larger version)

A Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) watches one of the bird feeders from a perch in the boughs of one of the evergreens in the backyard.  The Chickadees are particularly curious and when I’m out on the deck photographing they flyby to see what’s going on.  Following the storm, the next day was beautiful and the birds flew in close when I went outside for a little while.  While the lone Grosbeak was aloof, the smaller birds were chattering nearby and landing in the branches a few feet away.

Flitting in the trees - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Here a Mountain Chickadee (Poecile gambeli) flits around in the same tree scavenging for edible bits.  Note the white stripe above the eye that distinguishes them from their Black-capped cousins.

Tricky snacking - 2013 © Christopher Martin

While the little birds are still finding seeds and other things to eat in the forest, winter is at the doorstep so I returned our bird feeders to service a few days before the snow flew.  I wanted to let the resident Nuthatches and Chickadees return to the winter feeding pattern before the weather threw them a winter curveball.  Within a day there were a couple of birds who found the feeders and by the storm we were happy to see much of the congregation flying around the backyard again.

 


An Evening Grosbeak in the snow

Winter snack - 2013 © Christopher Martin

The Chickadees, Bluejays and Nuthatches in our backyard stay year round.  For some of the other birds, the heavy snowstorm on Sunday and the cold temperatures left behind have prompted discussion about overwintering or heading for the south.  This Evening Grosbeak seemed to be weighing his options as he nibbled on twigs while perched in the bushes above the pond.

Cracking twigs - 2013 © Christopher Martin

With the cold and the snow, I will not blame him if he takes flight soon.

Grosbeak's crown - 2013 © Christopher Martin


First snow in Bragg Creek

With a dusting of snow - 2013 © Christopher Martin

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.

In the snow - 2013 © Christopher Martin

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.

Young bull - 2013 © Christopher Martin

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.

Reflections in Wild Rose - 2013 © Christopher Martin

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Branches - 2013 © Christopher Martin

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Snow on the shoreline - 2013 © Christopher Martin


A little winter in Kananaskis

Overlapping seasons - 2013 © Christopher Martin

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.

Autumn at Upper Kananaskis Lake - 2013 © Christopher Martin

 


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