Bragg Creek

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Winter forest abstract


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A red fox backlit in Bragg Creek


Forest panoramas in a storm

(Please click on any image to open a separate window to see these panoramas in a larger version)

I have been enjoying creating panoramas by merging a number of shots into one wide image.  The workshop that I went to on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington recently brought that approach back in to my plans.  It’s been a while since I shot them with any regularity.  The rainforests there are well into spring and were amazing to photograph for panoramic concepts.  Forests have incredible depth, details and patterns and that was a focus while I was in the Pacific Northwest.

When I returned home, a cold weather pattern was knocking around Alberta.  When a snowstorm blew in, I headed out to photograph the forest and see if any pano opportunities jumped out.  The storm grew into a blizzard.  It was cool to have the increasing density of snow as a variable to the images.  We’ve had a few really good days in the week afterwards.  Before the next one comes in this weekend.

 

 


A snowstorm’s abstract

Greedily, Old Man Winter has snuck past Spring once more and released another day-long blizzard across southern Alberta.  The snow fell in thick flakes, speckling the sky then blurring the forest as it neared the ground.  I’m looking forward to greenery, especially given how lovely Seattle was when I was there last week, but this was a storm which cast a beautiful spell over the landscape west of Bragg Creek.


A wintry landscape in West Bragg

The cold which the east has been laboring under reached us this weekend.  Yesterday I was out photographing and this scene illustrated the frigid turn winter has now taken once more.

 

 


A meeting in Bragg Creek

I went to the Bragg Creek Provincial Park just before the latest snowfall.  Wandering along the Elbow River, exasperated chirping voiced several nearby squirrel alerts accompanied me.

Curiosity took over one’s hesitations and he climbed down from a treetop to watch me from a branch a couple of meters off the ground.  I crouched low and stayed still and soon he was digging out a pine cone from the sticks and snow.

 

With the right one gathered, he raced back to the tree and had breakfast from the low perch.  It was interesting to watch how he whittled down the cone.  Clever, efficient and dextrous work.

Once done, he let out a few chirps.  Conveying either the all clear or the threat’s still here – or something else altogether – before leaping away.  A couple more jumps along with some branch runs and he was out of sight.  His and a few other chirps spun through the woods now and again as I continued wandering.


Bald eagle in Bragg

Found a bald eagle in a branch above a couple of ravens that were on the ground.  There must have been something that they were fighting over with the eagle for breakfast.  When the raptor launched it angled away from me but I had a good side shot for a second.


A faint light from the north

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We are in the solar minimum and the Aurora Borealis displays at this latitude have been at a minimum as well.  On a night walk last night I noticed a bit of color in the sky.  Longer exposures showed a diffused haze of the Northern Lights.  Subtle but still beautiful.

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The quiet show ended quickly.  It was very nice to see them once again.  As the aurora faded out I needed my headlamp to bring a bit of color to the last photograph.

2 seconds at f/1.8 on ISO 3200


Happy New Year!

I spent New Year’s Eve at home with my children and one of their close friends.  We all had fun and enjoyed the evening.  The Redwood Meadows community once more put on a fireworks show.

They always do a great job and this year was outstanding.  Kian found friends to watch and hang out with.  The other two enjoyed the show from the picture window of a neighbor’s home which provided a good, and warm, view.  It wasn’t frigid cold but it was -12ºC and the windchill made it feel like several degrees cooler again.

Some people watched with their kids from their vehicles, some people bundled up and were happy to stand outside.  No matter how people watched them, everyone seemed to enjoy the performance.  I certainly did.

I set up across the road from the field where the fireworks were set up.  I wanted to have the option to silhouette people against the explosions.  I used two cameras to have some options.  I set one up with a remote control and kept those all at  a 10 second shutter speed, lens at f/10 and an ISO of 800.  The other one I shot with directly during the show and played with the settings and the composition.

As we have just left 2018 here in Alberta, I wanted to wish you the very best in 2019.  Happy New Year!


Happy holidays!

I hope you are enjoying time doing what you enjoy with those you love. We had an energetic start to the day with a dog’s temporary escape to visit the neighborhood, cleaning up from Santa’s whirlwind visit and enjoying the general madness. That’s given way to a relaxed afternoon with a gentle snowfall helping to set a calmer tone.

This white-winged crossbill was one of a mixed flock of finches, chickadees and nuthatches that I found hunting for seeds in a stretch of forest west of Bragg Creek yesterday. It was another energetic group and, looking back, seemed to be a little foreshadowing for this morning’s chaos. Looking forward, their community, cooperation and tolerance are some positive things to bring forward.


Springbank electrics

The thunder and lightning rolled over the prairies several times over the past couple of weeks.  On August 1st, I went out to photograph dusk as the smoke from the wildfires has helped create some beautiful evening scenes.  The haze thinned after sunset and a large cloud took shape from it as the sky cooled into night.

While the color slipped away, the cloud grew and I caught a flicker of lightning on the northern edge.  Rain didn’t fall and the wind never really picked up.  However a fork crackled through the air every few minutes for the next couple of hours.

The storm slowly churned east towards Calgary and the open prairie beyond.  The trailing edge left behind a clear sky dotted with stars.  This last photograph caught the moon illuminating the cloud as it rose.

 


Snowshoeing on the Elbow River

Last weekend there was a break in the storms where blue sky appeared for an hour or two in the afternoon.  It was cold but the sunshine was inviting so I strapped on snowshoes and headed outside.  The Elbow River is still largely frozen over so a walk along the plain at the north end of Redwood Meadows seemed a good call.  The clouds left with snow trailing just behind their departure.

I ended up playing around more than covering any real distance.  The slope from the berm to the river was a fun distraction as I jumped down into the snow and clambered up again a few times.

I ended with a short trek onto the plain and then back along the forest.  A few photographs of some wintering berries close to the berm coincided with the clouds closing in again.  The snow began to fly and I made my way home.

 


Tsuu T’ina Pow Wow: Friday’s Grand Entrance

The Pow Wow is the centre of the Tsuu T’ina Nation’s Annual Celebrations.  Last Friday evening Kezia and I went to the Redwood Meadows Fairground before the Grand Entrance.  Kezia was invited to join her friend dancing afterwards which hit the night out of the park for her.  The photography was great along the way with the beautiful regalia in the late sunlight.

 


Tsuu T’ina Rodeo: More from Friday night

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.

 


An evening at the Tsuu T’ina Rodeo

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.


The Tsuu T’ina Nation’s 2017 Rodeo is underway

 

Kezia and I went to the first night of the Tsuu T’ina Nation Annual Celebration’s 43rd Annual Rodeo.  Kezia’s friend was dancing in the Pow Wow so we did not stay too long.  Definitely looking forward to getting back tonight.

 


A spring in the step


White-tailed deer are a bit flighty so when I came across this doe munching on some flowers (another dandelion hunter as it turns out), it was no surprise that the tail came up and she took a few quick steps away.  She quickly returned to grazing so I wasn’t too much of a threat – or the flowers were too good to walk away from.

 


Wildlife during a winter blizzard

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The snow started to fly on Friday and has kept falling through the weekend.  And, it’s cold!  I went touring west of Bragg Creek yesterday but saw very little – even when the sun came out for a couple of hours.  Today was a different story and I saw a couple of moose, some white-tailed deer and a small banditry of chickadees.

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Moose love the cold so I hoped to see them in one of their regular haunts.  I found this young bull grazing in the bushes.

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These chickadees, mostly black-capped with a couple of boreals, flitted around a fence line that’s long been fighting to hold back the bushes behind.  I’ve always liked watching these little birds – they move very quickly so it’s a nice challenge to photograph them.

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Happy New Year’s Eve Deer

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This White-tailed stag was found during a short drive into Bragg Creek on Christmas day this year.

We are slowly warming up to New Year’s Eve and looking forward to the fireworks that our local community of Redwood Meadows puts on.  Always a great show – and they go early so the children get to enjoy them too!

I hope everyone has enjoyed, or is enjoying the last day of 2016.  It has been a winding year for our family, as it often goes, but still filled with a lot of laughs and the continued wonders of rearing my two children.


A phantom hunting in the snow

Great gray owl hunting in a snowstorm - © Christopher Martin-5076

The snowstorm and the cold accompanying it were considerable the morning I watched this Great gray owl hunting west of Bragg Creek.  Neither one impeded her focus or her ability to hunt.  She caught three mice as they scurried beneath the snow.  The sharp eyes guiding her to great effect.  The descent above started with her perched in a branch.  Her head cocked at subtly different angles to range in before she flew.

Great gray owl hunting in a snowstorm - © Christopher Martin-5066

This strike proved unsuccessful as it appeared she came close but came away with nothing.  She looked at me for a second and then lifted off to alight on a post holding up the fence I was leaning against.

Great gray owl hunting in a snowstorm - © Christopher Martin-5092

Great gray owl hunting in a snowstorm - © Christopher Martin-5093

Great gray owl hunting in a snowstorm - © Christopher Martin-5103

A short regroup was over after a few minutes when she dove with her back to me, grabbed and returned with a mouse.

Great gray owl hunting in a snowstorm - © Christopher Martin-5125

That was swallowed quickly and she then retreated to another branch on the tree line behind the fence.  She flew along the forest’s edge between a couple of spots.  Which gave me a few good opportunities to shoot her in flight.

Great gray owl hunting in a snowstorm - © Christopher Martin-5156

Great gray owl hunting in a snowstorm - © Christopher Martin-5215

She snagged another unfortunate creature as we approached noon and I left soon after that.

Great gray owl hunting in a snowstorm - © Christopher Martin-5156


Forest flights in a snowstorm

Great gray owl hunting in a snowstorm - © Christopher Martin-4970

A snowstorm hit Bragg Creek last weekend quickly draping the area in white and pushing the temperature way down.  I caught sight of this owl along a familiar stretch of open forest divided by a gravel road.

Great gray owl hunting in a snowstorm - © Christopher Martin-4954

Great gray owl hunting in a snowstorm - © Christopher Martin-4968

Great gray owl hunting in a snowstorm - © Christopher Martin-4972

It was a steep challenge keeping sharp focus as she flew through the trees and with the heavy snowfall but I had a great hour or so watching her and trying to keep up.  I ended up with many in-focus tree, out-of-focus owl shots but when it worked out the other way around there were some interesting images.

Great gray owl hunting in a snowstorm - © Christopher Martin-4916

Great gray owl hunting in a snowstorm - © Christopher Martin-4914

Great gray owl hunting in a snowstorm - © Christopher Martin-5159

When I did return to my car, it did take a few minutes for my fingers to thaw – that’s always painful but quickly forgotten.

Great gray owl hunting in a snowstorm - © Christopher Martin-5244
She was very successful during the time I watched her.  Three field mice were the first courses for breakfast from five silent descents into the tall grass.  When time allows, I will share a few of those action shots in another photo story here.


Barred owl: a little curious, a lot shy

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It was May of this year when I saw my first Barred owl in Bragg Creek.  I’ve lived here for ten years and spent a lot of time in the forests so it was a real thrill to find a new (to me) species in the area.  In late October, another one was waiting for me as I was walking in the woods along the edge of Kananaskis Country.  This time, the owl watched me intently for a few seconds, scanned the ground for prey for a few more and then repeated that for a couple of minutes while I watched and snapped a few images.  Eventually the owl flew a short distance away but they blend into this type of forest so well that I lost sight with the next glide that followed.  A beautiful creature.

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An owl on the other side

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On the other side of the road, this Great gray owl continued hunting after it flew across.  She left the open forest for the denser evergreens on the southern approach which provided a completely different look from the images that I shared yesterday.

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She flew between a couple of posts before gliding between a couple of trees.  I was lucky to be in position for some great opportunities.

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The owl flew into the middle of this large tree, beside the trunk, and I thought she might choose to rest there for a while.  She did for a few minutes, but soon grew restless and began scanning the ground for activity.  She turned around, saw something and then shot out of the tree.  I lost sight of her almost right away but heard a lot of squawking and commotion before things went quiet again.  I assume the owl struck successfully but did not go into the woods to check – either way the cycle of hunter and hunted continued with one coming out successfully.

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In the presence of greatness

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A couple of weeks ago snow had fallen overnight and I went into Bragg Creek to see what I might be able to photograph in this prelude to winter.  I was thrilled when I spied this Great gray owl flying along an old fence line.  She looked amazing against the lightly blanketed grass and trees.  Her colouring made her appear as a piece of the forest in motion.

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This owl has a well-defined hunting ground that I’m familiar with.  That said, I hadn’t seen her in over a month until the week before this encounter.  That time it was dusk and my camera and I both had trouble focusing as she flew past.  She stared at me for several wing beats which looked fantastic.  However the images were soft and I came away disappointed for missing some great shots.  Persistence paid off, as it often does given enough of it, and she was even more engaging this time around.

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Keeping an eye on my whereabouts was a minor distraction to her hunting and she made three separate attacks over the half hour that I watched her.  One was successful and a fourth, when she disappeared into the deeper woods, seemed successful given what I could hear.

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She hunted on the north side of the gravel road for most of the time I was there.  This forest is open with relatively wide spacing between the mostly Aspen trees and tall grass filling in between.  On the south side, the forest is dominated by evergreens and is much denser.  I will share some more images of this owl from the other side tomorrow.

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