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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Before the sun rose over the Fairholme Range, the scattered clouds stacked up in layers over the mountains. They fought to catch the early splashes of pink and peach as the day approached. The chaos of these splashes of color across the broken sky were beautiful to watch.
The tall grass near the bird blind on Frank Lake is nesting ground for Canada geese, ibis, yellow-headed blackbirds, herons and more. At dusk the cacophony rising up from these residents can be surprisingly loud. There are birds chasing one another, others returning with material for their nest, food for their chicks as well as occasional territorial spats. It’s an incredible spot to set up near the trails and watch life on a marsh. On a visit there in early May the weather was warm and the sunlight before dusk was incredible.
Throughout the evening, the Canada geese were active with a couple being particularly feisty. That presented some new image opportunities that I had not yet photographed which is always exciting for me.
When the sun set, the activity level along the shoreline rose noticeably. All manner of birds flew overhead and low along the water. Some of the geese moved their skirmishing to the small pond directly in front of me. I didn’t move around and they seemed oblivious, or at least undistracted, by me – which was perfect. I stayed until it was dark and loved every minute.
The American avocets were mostly paired up along the stretch of shoreline along Frank Lake when I went there last night. Here one avocet chased off another couple while the mate. Apparently defending territory they had claimed at some point.
Before photographing down in the fog a week ago, I stopped along the Trans-Canada Highway on the hill overlooking Springbank to watch the sunrise.
The eastern sky was starting to brighten quickly and I hoped the clouds would catch the early light. The fog was quite close to the hilltop when I first arrived but it fell back down before dawn came. The sunlight did bathe the clouds in amazing colors. It was spectacular!
Last weekend when fog stretched out across Calgary, I spent the morning photographing along the western edge near Springbank and east of the city around Delacour. The density of the fog changed constantly which was great fun to play with in the images I made.
At times the sun would break through the haze. Some of those moments were incredible just to watch as shafts of sunlight pierced the fog and were then quickly absorbed.
I returned to a weathered old truck that I’ve shot over the years. The fog’s isolation allowed for some new images of this charismatic vehicle.
Much like the train tracks above, I loved how the road disappeared – there is an ethereal quality that is lent to these images by the fog.
The trees that dot the prairies individually and in small stands drew my eye throughout the morning. Sometimes the fog hid them and sometimes it isolated them as with the truck above. Often they were just beautiful scenes to enjoy and shoot before they changed into something new.
On Monday morning fog rolled up from the rivers around Calgary and covered most of the city and surrounding areas. I was near the Springbank airport at sunrise and the visibility was not much more than a hundred metres. I photographed the sunrise from a hill above the fog and then returned to the airport. This photograph was taken about 20 minutes after daybreak as the line of fog was receding towards Calgary. I was surprised by the speed that it moved and even more so when it returned again a few minutes later. This ebb and flow reminded me of the tides and was amazing to be in the middle of. I will share more soon but wanted to start with this first view of the sun when the fog was rolling eastward.
I spent a morning on the prairies between Irricana and Langdon this weekend. I met up with my good friend, and fellow photographer, Jeff Rhude in Delacour and continued east from there to see what we could find. We were looking for owls and an hour before sunrise, we made out three individuals perched in different locations. It was much too dark to photograph with any reasonable expectation of making a good image. To us, their presence boded well for later, when the day was much brighter. A glowing sunrise welcomed the day and after photographing that for a little bit, we began combing the fields and fence posts for snowy owls. The ones seen in the pre-dawn gloom were nowhere to be found but several kilometres away we did find this one standing on the snow in a field.
The snowy took flight and let the wind push her eastward, across the road in front of us, until she landed on a fence post. She did not stay there long before diving into the snow on the far side of a frozen pond. That was a bit too far to see if she caught something but it looked like she did.
Soon after she jumped off the snow again and flew low over the ground before rising up enough to clear the fenceline.
That flight took her up to the gate of a compressor station. We photographed her for another three hours afterwards. I’ll cover that in my next post.