Catching sunrise in the clouds


I spent a morning up at Elbow Falls in Kananaskis Country a few days ago.  The sky was dark when I showed up there but I could make out the clouds as they ran eastward.  Dawn came quickly as it often does at this time of the year and I was pleased that a loose knot of these clouds had not yet disappeared behind the silhouetted tree line.  They caught the early light and spun it into reds, purples and oranges for a couple of minutes before the sunlight turned to gold and they continued the journey towards the prairies.

Autumn scenes before they’re gone


The snow fell hard enough to allow us to go sledding last weekend has melted away but it feels like winter will be here soon.  It has been a good fall and I have looked for a few more intimate scenes to represent the season before it leaves.




A couple of these are from the Jasper National Park in the first few days of September.  Banff is 350m higher elevation but, with her higher latitude, fall in Jasper seems to come at least a couple of weeks earlier.  Kian was flanked by leaves starting to turn as he watched the water run down Tangle Falls along the Icefields Parkway .


By contrast, the cormorants on the Bow River in Calgary were photographed in an autumn season on the last day of September.


Bear play

On our last day in Jasper, Kian and I went for a walk along Pyramid Lake that morning.  It was the first weekend of September so it was cool with a bit of mist on the water and the autumn colors were just starting to come in.  We headed back to town around 9am and spotted a Black bear in the open forest above the road.




One bear soon became two when the other stepped out from behind a dense clump of Buffalo berries.  The berries were ripe at that time so the bears had been drawn in.  At first we thought they were a mother and cub but when they were side by side, and then when they were wrestling, we could see they were both the same size.


To me, they seemed like they were near adults and given their play fighting I think they are siblings that are still hanging out together.  Whether related or not, they seemed to enjoy each other’s company and stayed close to each other as they munched through the patches of berries along the hillside.



A second night with the Aurora Borealis


Only three days after I was able to watch a great showing by the Northern Lights, they came out to dance over the foothills again.  The clouds were heavier this time around and grew steadily through the night while I was out.  That set up for some backlighting by the aurora that looked really beautiful.  This time around, I started at the same small pond as before but then drive to a couple of different spots along Highway 1 before ending my night at the small lake beside the Sibbald Creek Trail (Highway 68) where it meets Township Road 252.




At first I was trying to get away from the cloud bank as it coalesced and then moved southwards and increasingly obscured my view of the night sky.  Soon I became a little hypnotized by the glow around and through the clouds so I settled down and enjoyed the moment.


After 2am, the clouds broke up and seemed to return back to the north.  I was too tired to see how far they retreated and made my way home just before 3.



My first night with the Northern Lights this fall


September closed out with several strong Northern Lights displays that reached down to southern Alberta.  I was happy to make it out to the Foothills to photograph in the middle of the night for two of them.  These images are from the first foray which started around 11:30pm and continued rippling when I finally headed home around 2am on the 26th.

The clouds seemed to move in slow motion and picked up the glow from Cochrane differently as the night progressed.  Above, the aurora’s color palette shifted into pastels.  A few of the later images reminded me of cotton candy and were fantastic to watch slowly ripple then fade away.  I imagined these were tie-dyed waves rolling in both over the pond but also the sky they were reflecting.


Ursa Major and its Big Dipper were constant companions in the sky behind the dancing lights.  The stars would run in and out of the clouds, hiding at times and burning brightly at other times.  There was good magic to watch throughout.


A morning in the Valley of the Ten Peaks



Moraine Lake is a beautiful location in the Banff National Park to visit.  To photograph it often proves to be tricky and that keeps me returning.  The winds run haphazardly through, over and below the Valley of the Ten Peaks stirring the water, pushing the clouds low then high and generally making unpredictability the only thing predictable.  I love it but it continues to demand flexibility every time I go up.  There are a number of images that I have visualized, or maybe just dreamt about, but have yet to realize.  On my last visit with good friend and fellow photographer, Jeff Rhude, the sky looked promising as we drove up from Lake Louise.  Clouds were stacked along the peaks and the sky to the east was clear.  As we climbed the rock pile which gives the lake her name, the wind came up, pushing the cloud off the cliffs.  These slid eastward seemingly on a mission to block the early light of dawn.  I stopped for a moment with my back to the lake to photograph these broken clouds as the pink sunlight brushed through them.


We scrambled into a spot with a view down the valley which seemed to still be sleeping.  The wind was soft and the lake was calm, allowing for a beautiful reflection of the peaks and the sky above.


Around the valley the autumn colors were still hanging on while winter looked to be settling onto the mountains above the lake.


Autumn Grizzly in the park

autumn-grizzly-in-the-banff-national-park-christopher-martin-4206Autumn strode confidently into the Banff National Park at the beginning of September.  While some berries and flowers were still producing their best work of the year, much of the foliage has started to turn with grass yellowing and leaves falling.  It is a beautiful season in the park (but I would have to say that I like them all!).  A couple of weeks ago I found this Grizzly bear in the Bow Valley between Lake Louise and the Castle Junction.  It moved steadily through the palette of fall colors, eating berries as it found them.


It left this hillside meadow after a while and melted into the forest.  I caught sight one more time and could see it watch me for a second before continuing on and easily disappearing again.


Rainbows over Medicine Lake at sunset


A double rainbow arched over Medicine Lake just before sunset in Jasper National Park.  Light rain fell on Kian and I as we watched these rainbows develop on the edge of a storm that had rolled up the Maligne Valley.  The sun was near setting so the sunlight was pure gold and the colors across the landscape were incredible.





A step towards winter: morning at Moraine Lake




I spent the morning at Moraine Lake today.  A cold front swept in last night and when I caught my first glimpse of the valley when I drove up, the snow line was visible amid the layers of forest, rock and cloud.


At the lake, daybreak started cold with a steady drizzle of rain.  The blue water’s hue varied as the amount of light let through by the clouds changed.  I enjoyed the morning with the whole valley changing steadily.






Jasper National Park: Sunset near Excelsior Creek


On the Labour Day weekend, my son and I camped in Jasper.  I hadn’t been there in over a year and I was shocked to see a vast swath of burnt hillsides in Medicine Lake area of the Malign Valley.  Somehow I completely missed the Excelsior Wildfire that burned over a 1000 hectares between July 9th and 22nd, 2015.  We were looking for wildlife and enjoying the chaotic weather when the sun broke through to paint select trees amid the skeleton forest left behind as a stark reminder of the wildfire.

Early rutting in the mist

Stags in the Bragg Creek mist - © Christopher Martin-4016

I found this pair of White-tailed deer on a misty morning a couple of weeks ago. The stag on the right jabbed the other a couple of times.  It took a bit of prodding, but they eventually jousted for a few short skirmishes before going back to grazing in the dew-soaked field.  The rut will come in a few weeks, it seemed these two were getting in a little practice.

Stags in the Bragg Creek mist - © Christopher Martin-4011

Stags in the Bragg Creek mist - © Christopher Martin-4007

Stags in the Bragg Creek mist - © Christopher Martin-4002

Stags in the Bragg Creek mist - © Christopher Martin-4001

Dawn at the mouth of the Bow Valley

Rainbow sunrise in the Bow Valley - © Christopher Martin-2676

Dark clouds wrapped the eastern edge of the Bow Valley near Mount Yamnuska as the sky brightened at dawn last Friday morning.  The storm front to the west continued pushing towards the prairies and by dawn the line of rain was directly overhead Highway 40 (Kananaskis Trail) where it crosses the TransCanada Highway.

A stormy dawn in the Bow Valley - © Christopher Martin-2561


To the west were the rows of mountains, one leading down the Bow Valley towards Canmore and Banff, the other through Kananaskis Country.  When the sun cleared the horizon, light met water and a double rainbow arched over the valley’s mouth.

Rainbow sunrise in the Bow Valley - © Christopher Martin-2679-2

Rainbow sunrise in the Bow Valley - © Christopher Martin-2538

To the east, the sunlight hit the clouds toning them in warm pastels before dawn.  As the sun rose, the colours continued to deepen absorbed by the clouds as well as skipping along the underside.

Rainbow sunrise in the Bow Valley - © Christopher Martin-2610

Sunrise in the Bow Valley - © Christopher Martin-2636

I loved watching the alchemy of the light mixing with the clouds and rain.  The whole sky, in all directions, was dynamic and changed continuously through sunrise.  A little later, the sunlight shone through falling rain, and I made this last photograph of the landscape of this part of the Stoney Nakoda Nation before heading up the Kananaskis Trail and spending the morning with a pair of Bald eagles at the Mount Lorette Ponds.

Sun and rain on the Stoney Nakoda Nation - © Christopher Martin-2778