Ahead of the winter storm which hit late Monday, I went to Kananaskis to enjoy autumn in the mountains. The clouds were leaden, already suggesting snow when I watched them wrap around Mount Kidd in the fading darkness.
I waited for dawn on the low ridge above Wedge Pond. The little lake looked beautiful but the brightening sky was much less so. The clouds did diffuse the light which supported taking a few landscapes of the larch that ring one side.
I wanted to get a hike in so I packed up and headed off to the trailhead for the Galatea Lakes. I grabbed my tripod, threw on my backpack and headed up.
The trail followed Galatea Creek as it wound up the valley towards the lakes. I photographed steadily as I wandered along. It came as no surprise that I hadn’t covered more than a couple of miles before I needed to return home. It was nice to get lost really seeing and enjoying the forest, the splashing water and the mountains for a couple of hours.
Ice on these leaves softened their autumn colors. With the change of season over the past couple of weeks, I’m looking for fall scenes wherever I go. I’m really enjoying taking the time to explore and to photograph them.
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.
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.
In between the absurdly early snowstorm in September and the first winter cold snap that started last week, we had a great autumn here in the Foothills between Calgary and Banff. I spent a fair bit of time on the prairies and enjoyed some good encounters with their wild residents. The Great Horned Owl above was from a stand of trees west of High River during a great day where I had two separate encounters (one and two) with these beautiful owls. The one below is closer to home being a few miles south of Cochrane.
A beaver in the lake at Wild Rose, west of Bragg Creek, let me watch him swim on an overcast day where the ripples were soft and provided some nice opportunities. On another visit a pair of muskrat preened on the lake’s shoreline before returning to the water.
White-tailed deer are regularly seen in the fields as they stock up for winter. It was cool to see the young stag in the second image that was stag traversing the blackened earth in a much less recovered section of the Sawback prescribed burn that was done in 1993.
Another White-tail on the prairies stood on alert in a field south of Cochrane where I watched two stags rutting.
Winter is beginning to win the hearts and minds of the mountains in Kananaskis Country. After the sunrise at Wedge Pond, I hiked around the Upper Kananaskis Lake for a little while. There are some lovely yellows and golds in the trees reaching up along the lower flanks. With a few days of cool weather the patches of snow have knitted together and trekked down the slopes to meet, and pass through, the forest.
I was up in Banff National Park on Sunday shooting the sunrise behind Mount Rundle. After the early colors of dawn had left, I walked across the marshes west of the Vermilion Lakes towards the Bow River. The ice has covered most of the river along the couple of miles that I walked with snow blanketing the areas that don’t receive all day sun. When I saw this solitary leaf standing out of the snow, I thought it was a final sign that autumn had given way to winter. I’m excited for more of the white landscapes and the animals that like to be out in the cold.
Near the town of Exshaw, on the Bow Valley Trail, Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis) can often be seen on the cliffs and hillsides on either side. This morning my friend Jeff and I were out for a photo drive and we found a herd of about 25 ewes, lambs and adolescent rams.
They were moving across a rocky cliff face when we stopped and started photographing them. We watched them disappear over the ridgeline and then walked up and found them grazing in a wild grass meadow. As we hiked up, we could see a large group of adult rams higher up on the mountain but we didn’t continue up to them. Although it is the season for the rut so I may head back again before the end of the weekend to see if I can photograph some of the head butting that sorts out the mating season.
They kept moving across the mountain slopes but we had a lot of time to watch and shoot them before the cold wind got the better of us and we headed into Canmore for breakfast.
The lamb below was the last to leave the meadow and poked its head up over the grass for a quick look before running back to the herd.
We were on the road for much of this weekend driving to Shaunavon, Saskatchewan for some family business. To break up the drive there and back, we stayed just outside of Brooks on Thursday and Friday night. We spent both nights at the Lakeshore Bed & Breakfast which backs onto the northern shore of Lake Newell – a lake that family friends used to take me boating on when I was 4! I have scattered memories of those days but I remember the massive number of birds that summered there so I was eager to see what I would find when I got out before dawn on Saturday morning. As we are halfway through October and winter is one storm away, I was not surprised when I felt the biting cold carried off of the water and across the beach. With ice on the car windows, I took that as a cue to layer up so I headed down to the beach decked out for an Arctic expedition.
It was about 6:30 when I started photographing and I started with just a faint line of colour to the east. With the sky brightening quickly, I kept reducing the length of my exposures to hold the intensity of the orange glow pretty consistent across the images I made over the next hour. Starting with two minute exposures (f/11 and ISO 400), I was down to 1.3 seconds (f/16 at ISO 100) by 7:30.
As dawn approached, I started to see more of the features around that part of the lake. We had arrived late on Thursday night, left early on Friday and returned in darkness again that night so I had not done any scouting of the shore before Saturday morning. Not ideal for planning but it was interesting to see shapes of trees, rocks, buildings and islands separate from the blackness. By 7:30, there were three things that had grabbed my attention and pulled the type of images I was working on in a different direction. Steady flights of gulls and ducks flew in front of the eastern sky and I could see hundreds of birds all gliding towards an inlet several hundred meters ahead of me. The cold air was rolling over the lake producing a steam that started gently but had increased to an endless rolling fog that would continue until well after sunrise. The third item I first thought was a tower as I walked towards the steam and the increasing congregation of birds but realized it was a lighthouse built on a small island at the mouth of the inlet to assist boaters sailing back to the marina in darkness during the summer months. The birds, the steam and the lighthouse were all in the same place so it was an easy decision to walk over there.
With the sun rising I worked with the lighthouse and shoreline in silhouette against the bright sky.
When the sun cleared the trees I worked several different compositions including this one below and the first photograph in this post.
Once the sun was up, the steam was rising higher and I was able to isolate these two elements against the clean background created. It was a great morning to play with different approaches and try to create a range of images across the shoot.
Lake Newell is a major birding lake on the prairies and I’m looking forward to returning next spring when the pelicans, cormorants and terns who summer there return and are joined by loons, four types of grebes and all manner of ducks and geese. As it was, for a late fall morning on the prairie, I had a great time there. The warm shower, hot coffee and delicious breakfast were the final pieces to a really good start to the day.
A short collection of some images from around Bragg Creek over the last couple of weeks of fall.
Following on from my previous image from this morning’s sunrise, these photographs were taken a few minutes later as the sun was rising and the sky was brightening quickly.
The sunrises have been incredible for the past week – beautiful light, textured clouds and great colors both in the sky and in the land as the summer gives way to autumn. This morning was no exception. In this image I put my back to the rising sun and photographed the land as the early red glow lit up the fields in Springbank, west of Calgary, Alberta.