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Stags in the hazy morning sunshine

There were two mule deer bucks nibbling on roadside grass that I came across last weekend.  They were between the two Kananaskis Lakes and they ran up the hillside to the forest edge when another car passed by.  This brought them into the morning sunshine which illuminated them wonderfully.

One of the stags paused at the top of the hill before disappearing behind the trees.  The other walked along the ridge above the road for a few minutes.

He was enjoying the buffalo berries which are ripe throughout the valleys in Kananaskis now.  I always think of these berries as being food for the bears but this fellow reminded me that they are a delicious snack for many of the animals in the Rockies.

The smoke from the wildfires in British Columbia and Alberta continues to roll across the west.  That morning the resulting haze was quite heavy which warmed and softened the sunlight.  Beautiful light to work with – a very small and personal silver lining to a massive issue impacting millions of people.  This photo of peaks in the Kananaskis valley gives some indication of the atmosphere on that morning.

The stag kept an eye on me but with little traffic and me staying in my car had little provocation to join his partner in the woods.  I left him still grazing and continued my travels around K-Country.

 

A grizzly bear in the fireweed

Last weekend I came across this grizzly bear late in the day along the Kananaskis Trail (Highway 40).  He first came out of the forest on the high side of the hill and traveled through this patch of fireweed before slipping back into the woods.

He was in the trees briefly before continuing down the hill and coming to the road.

Meeting the pavement, he crossed straightaway – which is always a bit of uncertainty given the wildcard of a speeding vehicle.  However this time the four vehicles nearby were all pulled over and no other traffic came so he had no issues.

Dark clouds rolled in and he disappeared down the bank so that ended the short visit.  I headed up to Highwood Pass and watched the weather scrape over the mountains for a bit. Note: that is a great place to enjoy watching the land – the elevation, jagged peaks, often fast-moving clouds and ever-changing weather combine endlessly.  When I drove back down, I found the bear further up the road in hillside of brambles feasting on buffalo berries.  Failing light and falling rain softened the scene and made finding the bear and getting sharp images a challenge but I was grateful for another short visit with this beautiful bruin.

 

Berries and a black bear

Returning from a sunrise shoot atop the rock pile that gives Moraine Lake its name, I found a beautiful black bear grazing on berries.  The patch was close to the road connecting Moraine Lake with the Lake Louise area which meant a bear jam started to build right away.  I didn’t stay for long, just grabbed a couple of shots out the window from the other side of the road.  Great to see the berries coming in, they are a critical source of calories for the bears in the Banff National Park.

 

Two mornings on Moraine Lake


Last weekend I spent two mornings waiting for, and then watching the sunrise, on Moraine Lake.  The two days were definitely not alike.  On Saturday morning, the clouds hung low obscuring the tips along the Valley of the Ten Peaks.  The color palette was decidedly cool.  It was reminiscent of the night before after the sun had set at Upper Kananaskis Lake.

The next day welcomed clear skies in all directions.  I would have welcomed a few clouds above the mountains to catch the alpenglow but the peaks down the valley soon did.  And that was beautiful to enjoy.  It had been a couple of years since the valley had shared this particular scene with me.

 

Watching the peaks glow red is stunning and I love watching that light spread down mountainsides, racing against the golden sunshine’s imminent arrival.  The transition is very fast with the alpenglow lasting 4-5 minutes before the sunshine blends in and the red disappears from the rock faces.

Upper Kananaskis Lake – sunset and thereafter

On my way up to the mountains this weekend, the sun continued its struggle with the smoke from the wildfires.  In the early evening I made my way along Highway 40 and stopped several times to watch the clouds and sun in this unusual scene.

I ended up on the shore of the Upper Kananaskis Lake about an hour before sunset.  It was a warm night which I was grateful for – even in summer the wind can blow hard and cold across the lake at anytime. Over the next couple of hours a loon, a few people fishing and one large, extended family came and went.  I moved down the shoreline slowly, taking photographs of the sun’s descent towards the jagged silhouette of the mountains the curve around the lake.

The smoke acts like a neutral density filter and drops the intensity of the sun’s light considerably.  That allowed me to spend a lot of time exploring how the atmosphere, the sunlight and the landscape could be composed.  All three changed in appearance and shape as the sun descended.

When the sun drew close to the mountains, the colors deepened and the silhouettes of the mountains were fantastic against the sky.

The fiery hues disappeared quickly once the sun fell behind the mountains.  That left cooler tones to quietly take hold.  At that point, I was alone on the shore and the tranquility held me there for a long while.

 

 

Smoky sunset on the prairie

 

The sun has taken on a strange appearance each of the last few evenings.  The smoke from the wildfires to the west was thick in the foothills west of Calgary last Thursday when I stopped along Highway 8.  The pink globe in the sky drew my attention and, once stopped, I enjoyed watching the small clouds drifting past.  This one looked like a dancing bull, or maybe a bison in full stride, as it charged across the sun.

Tsuu T’ina Pow Wow: Friday’s Grand Entrance

The Pow Wow is the centre of the Tsuu T’ina Nation’s Annual Celebrations.  Last Friday evening Kezia and I went to the Redwood Meadows Fairground before the Grand Entrance.  Kezia was invited to join her friend dancing afterwards which hit the night out of the park for her.  The photography was great along the way with the beautiful regalia in the late sunlight.

 

Tsuu T’ina Rodeo: More from Friday night

On Friday night at the rodeo, my daughter and I watched the barrel racing.  We had a lot of fun watching these amazing partners tear around the barrels.

 

An evening at the Tsuu T’ina Rodeo

Under mild protest my son and I watched the last half of the evening set of the Tsuu T’ina’s 43rd annual rodeo last night.  Kian found a few boys to play kendama with so that bought me a little time to photograph.  The sun dropped into some wildfire smoke that laid above the horizon which made for dramatic backlighting.  I will share more soon but I’m packing my gear and heading over for Sunday’s short go this afternoon.  Here a cowboy lifts the calf into position to fix three of the legs with a half hitch knot to complete his run in the tie-down roping event.

The Tsuu T’ina Nation’s 2017 Rodeo is underway

 

Kezia and I went to the first night of the Tsuu T’ina Nation Annual Celebration’s 43rd Annual Rodeo.  Kezia’s friend was dancing in the Pow Wow so we did not stay too long.  Definitely looking forward to getting back tonight.

 

Kingfishing on the water

A family of belted kingfishers (Megaceryle alcyon) live and fish around a small lake west of Bragg Creek in Alberta, Canada.  They are tricky to photograph but a lot of fun to try.  Over a couple of hours there were a few close flybys.  Some I missed completely, they are very fast and can change direction instantly.  But there were a few that got closer to what I have in my head.  I’ll be back soon!

A forest for all of its trees

There is a beautiful stand of aspen trees on the eastern edge of the Hillsdale Meadows which I have photographed for years throughout the seasons.  Last weekend I stopped for another visit with them.  This time around I was drawn to the contrast of the slender, white trunks and the dark spaces between them.

I worked a few different ideas before I found what an approach that allowed me to illustrate that contrast.  Using longer shutter speeds (1/8th of a second – 1/4th of a second) and moving the camera vertically during the exposure, the blurs created illustrated the contrast in a way I really like.

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