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.
Yesterday I was on the prairie north of Langdon. When I left my home it was snowing steadily so I was unsure what an hour’s drive east would find. As the night slipped away, clouds opened small, uneven windows to the morning’s early light. It did not take long for the color to deepen while it painted more of sky. The farm structure’s silhouette served as an anchor in the landscape while dawn pulled the day forward.
To the west, the full moon fell below the clouds as it slid towards the Rocky Mountains. I found the alpenglow, the color of the clouds and the golden hue of the moon from the light pushing through a long stretch of the atmosphere to be absolutely beautiful. A lovely way to start any day by my standards.
In late January I spent time on a small pond between two of the Vermillion Lakes watching the day break. The blues of the early morning held on to the landscape as pastels started to be brushed into the clouds above Mount Rundle. The silence in this sheltered spot was wonderful and helped me to enjoy a calm, mindful meditation while I watched and photographed.
The blizzard tailed off this afternoon and I went out to see how the fresh blanket of snow looked laid over the prairie. With the clouds wrapping up the sun, I headed home and passed by this moment in the wintry outdoors. The mother and child appeared to be engaged in a good conversation but a wave seemed to earn me a quick smile. They were traveling along the Cowboy Trail (Highway 22X) so this slightly unusual scene seemed rather appropriate.
I love photographing wildlife, whether it’s a frigid morning, a warm afternoon, blizzards, or whatever, you will usually find me with a smile on my face. I put this gallery together of my favourite images from those times over the past year.
The 2016 highlights started with snowy owls on the prairie, in March was a wolf pack’s takedown of an elk in Banff and eagles migrating through the high meadows east of Crowsnest Pass, my first visit to Yellowstone National Park in May was wonderful, summer saw the bears in buffalo berry patches throughout Kananaskis, Banff and Jasper, birds migrating along the Bow River in early fall provided some great opportunities and the year wound down, as it started, with snowy owls east of Calgary.
Throughout the year I spend an enormous amount of time hanging out with the great gray owls who have allowed me to photograph them for several years. Owls, any species, are absolute favourite birds for me. I feel exceptionally lucky that I continue to be able to watch them, learn more about them and just simply enjoy being in their presence.
You can click on any of these three images to open the 2016 wildlife gallery in a new window.
The landscape imagery that stood out for me when I was reviewing the past year was vibrant and played with light and dark, shadow and illumination. There are some loose themes I worked on this year – stillness on the prairie, bringing elements of motion into landscapes and watching the sky and what the wind carried overhead. It was fun to go through these images, I hope you enjoy the collection that came out of that work.
Please click on this link, or any of the pictures here to open a new window with my favourite landscapes from 2016.
Last year flew by as each when seems to do when I look at them in the rear view mirror. The time I spend outside, often photographing, helps to slow time down a little. I treasure those moments and in 2016 it was wonderful to share more of that time with my children. Increasingly, they choose to join me for my wilderness forays and I couldn’t enjoy those more.
I spent a lot of time on the prairies in December. These days started early in the morning so I was able to enjoy watching night give way to day. And several hours later, watch the principles switch as the short daylight hours ran out.