We started the September long weekend with a family hike up Cat Creek on the southern side of Kanananskis. It’s a short walk through the forest that offers beautiful views down the Foothills and more intimate scenes in the valley. It was late afternoon and we enjoyed being in no particular rush. The trail has signs about the area’s history as main trail into Kananaskis last century as well as a short-lived period as a coal mining hotbed. We arrived at the end of the main trail shortly after 5 o’clock and had the pond below the waterfall to ourselves.
Cold but not bitterly so, the youngest kids all had turns jumping in and taking short swims. Desiree and I climbed up the cliff beside the waterfall and explored further upstream for a little while. Above the cliff edges were striped with thick moss and the stream had several small drops. However the waterfall at the end of the trail was rightfully the star of the show. It is one of the prettiest that I have seen in Alberta. That comment may be influenced by the company I was with – most of my very favorite people. Nonetheless, it was a great location to take a few photos.
The walk back in the evening light was just as beautiful. We finished with most kids sleeping on the way home. A great day.
On a walk in the hills above Sibbald Flats a couple of weeks ago, we had a great time following a stream into the forest. Flowers clung to the rocks in odd spots along the water’s run. I broke up the hike with a few shots of them along the way.
If you are interested in the names, just hover over the picture and you can see them.
A night on the western edge of Bragg Creek in January. The clouds had incredible texture all afternoon and when the last light caught them it threw incredible pinks and purples across them. A cotton candy sky glowing to see the day off. Same scene above and below – two versions.
I spent the day skiing at Nakiska yesterday. On the way home I stopped at Canoe Meadows and walked down to the edge of the Kananaskis River. The failing light of early evening created deep shadows and cast deepening blue tones across the scene. Chunks of ice floated downstream while the snow fell lightly. There was a line of ice marking a recent water level, higher than it is now. It had been a few years since I wandered along this part of the river. It was not a disappointing end to a great day.
Not bad behavior, just one that I don’t pretend to understand. When I was last at Elbow Falls, I photographed two American dippers as they flew, dove and splashed around the fast-moving water. Along the way, one of the birds flew to an overhang beside the edge of the waterfall, and then slid on the ice before finding purchase in the snow.
It paused for a moment and then flew at the waterfall!
The bird flapped its wings to hover for several seconds only a few inches from the water where it fell over the edge. I don’t know if it was looking for insects behind the water – surely not in the water itself! Likely it was something else, maybe even simple curiosity or just because it could do it. It was unusual and really fantastic to watch.
American dippers are year round residents below the Elbow Falls. When I was there before sunrise, I could hear an occasional chitter from one pair as they flew up and downstream. As the day brightened I saw them a couple of times while I was photographing the landscape around the waterfall.
I shifted my attention to them and had two lengthy sessions photographing them. The first began when I was taking the last couple of shots above the falls and noticed one dipper fishing in the small rapids there. The bird splashed here and there, submerged in the flowing water and managed to hunt down a good number of insects in there. After several minutes, breakfast concluded and the bird flew down the river and quickly went out of sight.
An hour’s wait separated me form the second encounter. Eventually one of the dippers flew by and landed at rapids upstream from the falls. That was too far for any reasonably interesting photographs but a second dipper followed only a little while later. This one returned to pools above the waterfall which I have enjoyed watching them at often. When the bird alighted in the water this time, I laid down on the snow to get close to eye level with the little bird. I was well rewarded as it soon chose to ignore me and walked close by.
There is a beautiful balance of running water, ice forms along the river’s edge and drifts of snow at Elbow Falls right now. Following an early start, photographing the waterfall before dawn, I stayed for a long time playing with these elements. This is one of my favorite waterfalls and was happy to find a few new ways to photograph it on this visit. A couple of American dippers kept me company and I eventually turned my attention to them as splashed around hunting for breakfast in the fast-moving water. I look forward to sharing those images soon.
I went to Elbow Falls yesterday and arrived well before sunrise. As I stood above the waterfall, the glow from Calgary, ~50km to the east, mixed with the faintest hint of the approaching dawn to paint the clouds and to illuminate the river very gently.
A touch of winter froze blades of a partially submerged mound of grass and laid down several sheets of snow on the peaks ringing the lake before autumn returned. Photographed in Kananaskis Country’s Peter Lougheed Provincial Park in Alberta, Canada on October 7th.
A 25 second exposure and a fast lens (in this case, a Canon 24mm f/1.4 set at f/1.8) revealed wisps of clouds stretching east across the Kananaskis River valley a little after 4 in the morning on October 7th. The soft green glow betrayed the Aurora Borealis pulsing low over the northern horizon.
Red light from my headlamp illuminated Highway 40 in this 10 second exposure that centered on the hazy Northern Lights.
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.
A common loon swims in front of a low, rocky island on a calm, smoky morning on Upper Kananaskis Lake. Haze from the wildfires to the west was thick in the mountains and often hid the mountains that ring the lake.
On a morning drive to the Upper Kananaskis Lake, I found a grizzly with her cub foraging beside the road. A Kananaskis conservation officer was watching them from his truck across the road which made me feel better with respect to the risk of a vehicle colliding with them. I did not want to bother them so I stopped for only a few seconds to watch as the little one munched away – her head didn’t come up as she seemed intent on her breakfast – so I continued on.
About twenty minutes later, I was heading on to the Highwood Pass for some hiking and passed by them again. This time the cub favored me with a quick glance when I stopped before she returned to the grass and wildflowers.
In December while my son was in snowboarding lessons at Nakiska, I drove further into Kananaskis Country. At Spillway Lake, along the Smith-Dorrien Trail, I found the sun laying low above the silhouettes of the forest and the mountain ridge lines.
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.
I hope you are enjoying time doing what you love with those you enjoy spending time with. I have been able to do both with family and friends this holiday. For Boxing Day I created some time alone and went up to Elbow Falls in Kananaskis. It is a beautiful location, particularly when blanketed in ice and snow. The afternoon held broken clouds but the skies cleared as sunset faded. The half-moon emerged from the veil and shone incredibly bright in the night sky. The moonlight washed over the rapids above the waterfall while stars began to take their place above. I deeply enjoyed being in this scene.
This black-capped chickadee chirped and sang from the woods beside a small peninsula on Upper Kananaskis Lake. I sat down and waited for a little while to see if it would come into view. They are curious little birds and it didn’t take long for this one to perch among the golden leaves nearby. With a quick check done, it soon flitted off and I continued on towards the windswept side of the lake across the peninsula.
This was easily one of the sweetest moments I’ve seen when this bull moose nuzzled with his calf.
The bull is likely mating with the cow again this year which brings him into the same area as the calf. I didn’t expect them to have a bond but when this tender moment happened on the weekend, I was obviously wrong.
This calf was born in 2016 and still stays close to his mother. The three moose have been hanging around each other again during this year’s rut. I don’t know how long they will stay together as a little family before the bull returns to the solitary life.
When I started watching them, the calf was laying down while the parents grazed separately nearby. Over the next hour they all moved slowly around the small meadow and the edge of the forest. It was a relaxed atmosphere which I think is reflected in the photographs.
Eventually the big fellow laid down and was soon napping. The cow and calf continued grazing. And I headed home.
This image of a summer sunrise at Upper Kananaskis Lake in the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park has been selected as one of National Geographic’s Daily Dozen for October 5th.
The yellow border is a siren call for many photographers – and certainly is for me. I have had several images published on National Geographic’s websites but the novelty never wears off so it’s a great start to the day!
There is voting on each day’s twelve images that are selected by one of the National Geographic editors. The image which receives the highest number of votes has the potential to be published in the National Geographic magazine. If you do check out the today’s Daily Dozen, have a look at the images and vote for the one that you like best. I really love Nguyen Tat Thang’s photograph of mist and fog over the city of Dalat in Vietnam.
I’ve been lucky to enjoy a number of great mornings (here, here and here) in the mountains as summer has wound down. Last weekend I went to Kananaskis to see how the autumn colors were coming in at the higher elevations. I went to Wedge Pond ahead of the sunrise and waited for the darkness to lift. Soon enough it did, and quickly, revealing the larch along the shoreline were starting to turn but there were more lime greens than yellows and golds. I’ll be back again in a week or two to try to catch the stands of gold before the needles fall and the leaves blow away.
I was not disappointed in any way though. The mist swirled across the calm water, drawing a line through the middle of the mountains and their reflections as the early morning blue gave way to the alpenglow.
This summer I feel like I have rediscovered the Kananaskis Lakes located in the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. In particular, I have spent a lot of time at the upper lake. The peaks that ring the lake have appealed to me recently in a new way and I have been drawn to visit at different times of the day to photograph them.
The jagged profiles, mirrored reflections and rocky shoreline are all elements I love to work with and the Upper Kananaskis Lake knits these together in a beautiful way. These are a few of the photographs I like from these visits.
And here are some evening shots from an earlier post this summer as well. It’s a beautiful place to spend time.
I found grizzly bear #139 between the Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes last weekend. He has a history of being in the news over the past couple of year (not a problem bear just one that people find with relative frequency so there are a fair number of images and articles on him). This time, he was strolling between the forest and the Kananaskis Lake road, grazing on the buffalo berries that are ripe and delicious (for the bears at least – they are too tart for my taste when they first ripen).
I left the bear after alerting one of the rangers to his presence as he was moving closer to a campground. I went for a walk along the shoreline a few kilometres away and returned past the spot an hour later. The bear had crossed the road by then and was grazing on the high side of the hill.
He has been referred to as scrawny in the past so it was good to see him looking healthy and devouring berries. He’s a beautiful bear – especially when he flashes that wonderful smile (please allow for a bit of anthropomorphization. I truly believe animals have personalities and emotions). I hope to cross paths with him again for years to come.
Wedge Pond is a favourite location of mine in Kananaskis Country. She sits below the massive chunk of rock that is Mount Kidd and in calm moments mirrors the entire mountain on her surface. Several more peaks along the Kananaskis River Valley are prominent from the shoreline as well. Collectively they provide a lot of visually appealing elements to work with when photographing around this little lake. I usually head there in late September when the aspen trees around the pond turn a brilliant yellow (previous posts with those images). A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by a friendly Australian photographer who will be coming this way next month and was looking for some local information about Kananaskis and Wedge Pond in particular. That got me thinking about Wedge a little earlier than usual and I headed up in the wee hours on August 11th..
The mist was swirling early. Cold, humid air and a gentle breeze combined to push the mist across the water. On this day, the sky was clear and the alpenglow was visible above the mountains early and then slid down the surrounding peaks. The morning exceeded all expectations I may have had and I was blessed with an amazing start to the day. The red that first painted the peaks was soon washed over with golden sunlight and I headed up for a hike at Chester Lake.
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.