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A crow’s silhouette

 

Raven's silhouette - © Christopher Martin-8363-2

Crows, like ravens, are known as clever birds but I think their beauty is under appreciated.  The iridescent purples and blues that can shimmer out of their black feathers are wonderful.  A couple of weeks ago, I watched a few crows flush off a fence near Cochrane.  I tracked this one and got lucky with this shot.  I loved the shape of the silhouette and how a tiny bit of that iridescence can be seen on one wing.


A snowy glance

Favoured by a snowy glance - © Christopher Martin-9302

There is something magical when you lock eyes, however briefly, with a wild animal in their environment.  Last weekend this snowy owl favored me with a long glance as it flew over the prairies.  Here is the little story behind this image.

Favoured by a snowy glance - © Christopher Martin-9139

I was driving the country roads east of Calgary and spied this owl on the top of a small hill a fair distance from the road.  The image above was taken with a big telephoto (500mm) so the bird was likely a kilometer away.  Distance can be a bit tricky on the prairie so I may be a bit off but it was too far away for any of the shots that I was looking for.  I left the car and slowly trudged up said hill on a parallel line from the owl.  I don’t like to spook animals so slowness is key when approaching and lot’s of stops to watch closely for signs of pressure in the bird.  After 45 minutes I was about 60 meters away, the owl continued to scan the fields from the high ground and I settled into the snow.

Favoured by a snowy glance - © Christopher Martin-9189

The sun shone, the owl dozed a bit between scans and I had an internal dialogue about the sanity of sitting on a bare hilltop on a cold day.  It had warmed up compared to earlier in the morning when I photographed a prairie falcon a few kilometers away but a steady breeze kept things chilly.  None of that really mattered though, I was happy to be sharing time with the owl.

Favoured by a snowy glance - © Christopher Martin-9280

Another 15 minutes passed and then so did a couple of ravens.  As they flew overhead the owl tracked them closely.  That seemed to stir her energy up and shortly after they passed she ruffled up her feathers, stamped a little bit and then took flight.

Favoured by a snowy glance - © Christopher Martin-9297

She flew eastward into the sun which lit her beautifully.

Favoured by a snowy glance - © Christopher Martin-9300-4Favoured by a snowy glance - © Christopher Martin-9303.jpgFavoured by a snowy glance - © Christopher Martin-9301-3.jpg

After a couple of wingbeats she looked my way and then stared at me for a couple more.  Was it curiosity, an acknowledgement of the encounter, her saying goodbye?  Probably not any of those but it was powerful, and as I said before, magical.

Favoured by a snowy glance - © Christopher Martin-9305-2


A raptor perched on an old house.

I had a beautiful encounter with a snowy owl on a barren hilltop near Namaka on Family Day.  That was preceded by a mutual fascination that this juvenile prairie falcon and I shared for a long-abandoned house on the prairies.

I was driving the backroads after sunrise primarily to look for snowies.  I like these drives on the winter prairie as the views are expansive and I always hope to see something unexpected.  I had not visited this worn out farmstead before and I stopped to have a look.  It was -27°C so I was content to take a couple of pictures out of the rolled down window – until I spied the falcon perched on the peak of the roof.  Then I got out and walked slowly closer.

After 15 minutes, I was set up beside one of the sheds a little ways off from the main house.  The falcon watched me approach but was more interested in scanning the field to the east.  I kept my lens trained on the roof for a few more minutes until the bird launched.

It flew over the field and out of my view.  I trudged back – it always seems farther and colder when returning from an encounter than it was getting there.  My hands were happy to get out of the wind and I was happy to have some nice images of this beautiful, hardy bird.


Frozen along the Kananaskis River

I spent the day skiing at Nakiska yesterday.  On the way home I stopped at Canoe Meadows and walked down to the edge of the Kananaskis River.  The failing light of early evening created deep shadows and cast deepening blue tones across the scene.  Chunks of ice floated downstream while the snow fell lightly.  There was a line of ice marking a recent water level, higher than it is now.  It had been a few years since I wandered along this part of the river.  It was not a disappointing end to a great day.


Snowy owl

I spent a few hours photographing this beautiful bird east of Calgary near Delacour.  The temperature, and the wind chill, conspired to make it a bit uncomfortable for me.  Not so for the owl, he appeared to take the cold with little interruption to normal operations.  He perched atop telephone poles and fence posts for long periods broken up by several flights low over the fields.  Three of those were successful hunts.  This image was from one of the scouting flights as he climbed towards a high perch.  I liked the interesting shape of his profile and the soft details in the background of this image.


A wintry landscape in West Bragg

The cold which the east has been laboring under reached us this weekend.  Yesterday I was out photographing and this scene illustrated the frigid turn winter has now taken once more.

 

 


A meeting in Bragg Creek

I went to the Bragg Creek Provincial Park just before the latest snowfall.  Wandering along the Elbow River, exasperated chirping voiced several nearby squirrel alerts accompanied me.

Curiosity took over one’s hesitations and he climbed down from a treetop to watch me from a branch a couple of meters off the ground.  I crouched low and stayed still and soon he was digging out a pine cone from the sticks and snow.

 

With the right one gathered, he raced back to the tree and had breakfast from the low perch.  It was interesting to watch how he whittled down the cone.  Clever, efficient and dextrous work.

Once done, he let out a few chirps.  Conveying either the all clear or the threat’s still here – or something else altogether – before leaping away.  A couple more jumps along with some branch runs and he was out of sight.  His and a few other chirps spun through the woods now and again as I continued wandering.


Bald eagle in Bragg

Found a bald eagle in a branch above a couple of ravens that were on the ground.  There must have been something that they were fighting over with the eagle for breakfast.  When the raptor launched it angled away from me but I had a good side shot for a second.


Downtown Calgary – Morning along the Bow River

On Saturday I watched the morning arrive on the shore of the Bow River.  I was across the water from Calgary’s downtown and used the Center Street Bridge as a focal point between the sky and the buildings.  I parked along Memorial Drive and checked the sky in a couple of test photographs.  Traffic came by and made for a good start.

On the other side of the road, the rocks, snow and ice along the river bank presented an interesting foreground.  It was a bit hectic teasing out compositions as the light was changing rapidly.  But that’s pretty fun chaos by any measure.

The eastern sky had bundles of pink cotton candy for a few minutes.  To the west the pink was a pastel that looked very pretty reflected in the Bow where it passed Prince’s Island Park.

Mallard ducks and Canada geese milled about flying up and down the river.  The cackling and quacking across the water along with the occasional group of vehicles passing behind me on Memorial Drive joined the river to perform the morning’s soundtrack.

 

 


An icy sunset on the Elbow River

I walked down to the Elbow from my home this evening as the sun neared the western horizon.  Dusk brought some lovely color the clouds stretching eastward.  I found this sliver of open water and the interesting ice around it which anchored the scene nicely.


Cars in motion

I have a lot of fun photographing just about anything in motion.  Thinking about how a picture could look, using different techniques to realize that and then the element of luck throwing in a wildcard or two.  Here are a few car shots from last year which came together pretty well.

Night suits this type of photography as the darkness allows for slower shutter speeds.  I set a longer exposure, often between 1/10th and 1/50th of a second, and then pan with the vehicle as it passes by.  The background blurs and, hopefully, the vehicle remains in sharp focus.

And then, sometimes, you find a car just sitting patiently in an empty parking lot in Montréal under a light rain in the early morning that simply looks amazing.


Nightscapes from the past year

I’ve been wanting to put together a couple of posts with common themes using photographs which I have not published.  These aren’t the best of the year series, I’ll look to have those out soon though.  They are simply photographs that I would like to share.

So, I’ll start with a few images taken at night and see what follows after.  Thank you for indulging me in a bit of reverie!

I’m often out at night to chase the Northern Lights, watch the stars or waiting for dawn to come.  The moon always draws my attention when she’s up and I’m out.

Calgary’s downtown lights also have a definite charm.  Here I stood over the Elbow at River Park just before Christmas.

Seagulls fly over the Bow River during a blizzard in Calgary’s downtown.

A reflection pooled in the cobblestone of Montreal’s old port district caught my attention during a night spent in the grand city.

One of the very best nights was watching the fireworks on Canada Day with my son at Mont-Tremblant.