Alberta

A Black Diamond rainbow

A couple of weeks ago my son spied this rainbow as it arched out of a storm cloud rolling over the prairies east of Black Diamond.  I am very glad he did!


My favourite landscape photographs from 2017

It was fun to look back over the past year’s photographs recently and recall the story behind them.  I’ve created a gallery of my favorite images you can check out here (or click on any image to open that page in a new window).  I moved in new directions with my landscape work which, through trial and error, yielded some work I really like.

I practiced a technique where I change the focal length (zoom) the lens during a long exposure which creates a variety of effects that I have had great fun exploring.

I walked into some of my images, to provide scale in some and interest in others, which I want to continue to explore and build on.  I also hope my children will join me for some of those in the coming year – if I can wake them up early enough!

I had a lot of fun scrambling around valleys and peaks in Banff and Kananaskis.  I wanted to hike more in the warmer months and was happy with the images I made from those outings to new locations.  I photographed through many nights along the lakes there and enjoyed seeing these amazing places under the stars.  I have always loved the mountains and that love continues to deepen.

A trip to the Palouse in Washington in May was a definite highlight.  The agricultural geometry laid over the rolling hills is beautiful.  Exploring the area and searching for interesting compositions filled a long weekend and a couple of memory cards.

Excursions on the Prairies, searching for snowy owls in winter and a long list of other birds in the other seasons, were regular for me in 2017.  These are often solitary travels for me and I find the landscape imagery often reflects that.  Lone subjects, standing as islands on endless fields, stand defiant under the massive skies in one image and vulnerable in the next.  I have much more that I want to create out there in this new year.

There were many pieces of last year that bring a smile when reflecting back.  And a few that well some tears up.  They combined to make for a good year.  For me, this gallery reflects that.  Thank you for following the visual journey I share here.


Flashback Friday – a circle of light at the Vermilion Lakes

In August I photographed through the night along the Vermilion Lakes.  The air was heavy with smoke from nearby wildfires.  This long exposure caught the glow from the town of Banff as it pushed through thick haze and got caught in clouds hanging low in the Bow Valley.  A timer and a flashlight allowed me to run out onto this dock on the third Vermilion Lake and trace out the circle in this image.


Light trails at dawn along the TransCanada

A couple of weeks ago I went to Springbank, just west of Calgary, and made a few long exposure photographs from the overpass that leads to Calaway Park to the south and the Springbank Airport to the north.  The TransCanada Highway runs west from Calgary, under this bridge and a few more, before heading into the Rocky Mountains.  As night faded, the line of the mountains in their snowy blankets stood out.

 

To the east the sun painted the scattered clouds before it rose above the eastern horizon.  The color from the headlights, tail lights and reflections in the shiny pavement patches balanced the sky in a way I liked.

Shortly before the sun rose, the landscape and clouds to the west were illuminated with soft, even light which helped the light trails to really glow.


Sunrise over prairie farmland east of High River

I enjoyed another sunrise on the prairies east of High River this weekend.  This time around, I used a couple of farms and their buildings to break up the line of the horizon.  The layers of cloud across the sky caught the sunlight presenting a range of pastels as the morning moved through dawn.

I stepped infront of the camera when I had the tripod facing the beautiful display of pink hues in the clouds to the north.  As the sun rose it went behind a thick band of cloud so I looked down a couple of snow-covered range roads towards the Rocky Mountains before the warm light cooled and disappeared.

 


This small shack is leaning to one side and I suspect it will fall down in a year or two.  It served me well as a solitary anchor under the growing dawn on a frigid morning last weekend near Mossleigh.  I love the isolation and the constantly changing skies on the prairies in the winter.


Dawn over the prairies

I caught a sunrise on the prairies east of Mossleigh on the weekend.  Fog had rolled over a large swath of southern Alberta so the morning was spent watching skirmishes between the rising sun burning off the clouds and the walls of fog.  Here the early pink light had painted the clouds but not yet reached the fields nor broken through the opaque wall behind this tree.


Morning at a bend in the Elbow River

A morning walk brought me to this scene along the Elbow River a little after sunrise.  With snow falling outside as I write this, it feels like that may have been one of the last autumn landscape photographs for me for the year.


A few vignettes of autumn

Fall has rushed in quickly this year and I wanted to share a few photographs from this season before it has moved on. Above, I was photographing the Northern Lights along the Elbow River and used a flashlight to illuminate one tree’s fall colors.

The golden leaves can blow away at any point so I stopped as often as I could when I found a scene that captured a little of the season’s soul.

The forest, recovering from the controlled burn at Sawback Ridge in Banff National Park, exploded into a riot of fall color in September.  An abandoned farm building in Springbank was similarly surrounded.

The fields in the foothills were ready for the final harvests by the end of September.  The view across the fields and on to the eastern flanks of the Rocky Mountains is beautiful.

The snow is falling again this morning so who knows how long autumn will linger.  It’s all good, I enjoy each season as they come and go.


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.

 


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.