Kananaskis

Sunshine over Spillway

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.


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.


Happy Holidays!

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.


A chickadee surrounded by autumn

 

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.

 


A family of moose in Kananaskis Country

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.


Upper Kananaskis Lake image featured on National Geographic’s Daily Dozen Website

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.


Early autumn alpenglow in Kananaskis

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.

 


Upper Kananaskis Lake – summer mornings

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.

 


#139 in the berries

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 – mist, reflection and alpenglow

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.


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.

 


A grizzly bear in the fireweed

Last weekend I came across this grizzly bear late in the day along the Kananaskis Trail (Highway 40).  He first came out of the forest on the high side of the hill and traveled through this patch of fireweed before slipping back into the woods.

He was in the trees briefly before continuing down the hill and coming to the road.

Meeting the pavement, he crossed straightaway – which is always a bit of uncertainty given the wildcard of a speeding vehicle.  However this time the four vehicles nearby were all pulled over and no other traffic came so he had no issues.

Dark clouds rolled in and he disappeared down the bank so that ended the short visit.  I headed up to Highwood Pass and watched the weather scrape over the mountains for a bit. Note: that is a great place to enjoy watching the land – the elevation, jagged peaks, often fast-moving clouds and ever-changing weather combine endlessly.  When I drove back down, I found the bear further up the road in hillside of brambles feasting on buffalo berries.  Failing light and falling rain softened the scene and made finding the bear and getting sharp images a challenge but I was grateful for another short visit with this beautiful bruin.