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.


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.


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.

The Banff National Park through my son’s eyes

Banff in the Bow Valley - © Kian Martin-3389

Kian and I spent a great day in the Banff National Park last week.  We met my parents, his grandparents, in Banff and divided the day between the Gondola that runs up Sulphur Mountain and the Lake Minnewanka boat cruise.  It was a lot of fun touring with my son and my parents.  Here is a recap – I have used Kian’s photographs to illustrate the day.

Golden-mantled ground squirrel on the run- © Kian Martin-3499

When we got started, Kian asked me if he could use one of my cameras.  The answer was, and always is, yes.  We then spent big chunks of the day photographing away.  This was one of the first times where he has really wanted to spend time doing it and I was happy to join him.

Golden-mantled ground squirrel on the run- © Kian Martin-3445

From the top of the gondola, we walked up to Sanson’s Peak and found Golden-mantled ground squirrels all around plus a couple of Hoary marmots on the rocks.  Kian picked out these creatures and angled for good spots to shoot them (with a camera).

Golden-mantled ground squirrel on the run- © Kian Martin-3485

Golden-mantled ground squirrel on the run- © Kian Martin-3486

Golden-mantled ground squirrel on Sanson's Peak - © Kian Martin-3497

On the water, we covered the length of the lake and Kian made some very nice landscape images along the way.  Coming back, he started experimenting with the reflection of his camera in the window against the scenery beyond.  These were some of my favourites from his set.  When droplets settled on the glass towards the end of the trip, he turned his attention to them framed with the mountains.  Those joined my list of favourites too – great vision and creativity.

Minnewanka's emerald waters - © Kian Martin 2016 -3503

The east end of Lake Minnewanka - © Kian Martin-3555

Photographing Lake Minnewanka - © Kian Martin-3558

Photographing Minnewanka - © Kian Martin-3560

Photographing the mountains from Minnewanka - © Kian Martin-3577

The next day, we spent a couple of hours post processing his work.  It was fantastic!  I love the way he sees things and creates images.  I’m a one trick pony and didn’t do much more than photographing through the day.  Kian however was also the safety model for the flotation device, shared ecological knowledge about the forest along the lake and took a turn piloting the boat.

Kian in the photobooth - © Christopher Martin-3518

Piloting Minnewanka - © Christopher Martin-3569

After the boat ride, my parents headed back to Cochrane and Kian and I waded in the water for a bit – right up until our legs went numb!  We then went down the Johnson Lake road to see if the Buffalo berries were ripe and drawing in any bears.  They were and they did!  We saw a Black bear and a Grizzly.

Johnson Lake Black bear - © Kian Martin-3598

After all of that excitement, we headed for home.  Dusk came quickly and we decided to pull off of the Trans-Canada Highway and drive up the Sibbald Creek Trail to find a spot to photograph the sunset for a few minutes.  We found a small lake close to the road and this was Kian’s final picture from a great day.  An absolutely wonderful landscape image and one we both agreed was among his best (so far).

Sunset from the Sibbald Creek Trail - © Kian Martin-3641

He is a competent young man intent on trying out new things – I am exceptionally happy for him about the person he is choosing to become.  And, I am very proud of him.


Fernsehturm de Berlín in der Nacht

Fernsehturm de Berlín in der Nacht - © Christopher Martin-9495

The Berlin TV Tower rises up from Alexanderplatz in the heart of Berlin and is arguably the most prominent landmark in the city. To get an elevated view, I went to the Park Inn’s panorama terrace which is on the 40th floor and faces the tower.  The netting wasn’t great for photographs but I enjoyed the challenge of trying to work with it.

Fernsehturm de Berlín in der Nacht - © Christopher Martin-9510

The views of Berlin from that height were fantastic.  I got there before the sun had set so it was nice to be able to see many of the cathedrals, museums and other sites I had spent the week visiting.  The image below is looking to the west and the orderly yet somehow still chaotic mosaic of the city.

Berlín in der Nacht - © Christopher Martin-9375

Just before midnight I went to the top of the tower itself.  The windows at night had reflections to wrestle along with a bit of distortion in the glass so the photographs from Berlin’s highest perch were quite limited.  Still great to take in the whole city wearing her night lights.  The night market in the centre of Alexanderplatz under the tower nearly empty but provided some colorful lights to frame against the railing shadows I leaned against.

Alexanderplatz after the party in Berlin - © Christopher Martin-9634



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




Nightlines and the Brandenburg Tor

Nightlines at the Brandenburg Tor - © Christopher Martin-9018

The Brandenburg Gate is a beautiful monument that has been at the centre of pivotal moments in history since its construction completed in 1791.  The Tor was commissioned by King Friedrich William II as a sign of peace; Napoleon marched through it in triumph; it was closed to all through the cold war, dividing Berlin – and the world,  and divided Berlin and the world; and then it was where the wall first fell and was where the city and Germany reunified.  Coming full circle, it has now come to represent peace as well as unity in the country and in Europe.

Nightlines at the Brandenburg Tor - © Christopher Martin-9020

I was excited to photograph this icon and visited there several times through my week in Berlin.  One visit was after midnight and I set up on the west side of the where three streets meet.  I wanted to create some long exposures to let the lights from the vehicles create streaks in front of the gate.  It is a stunning structure and I enjoyed spending time there and making these images.

Nightlines at the Brandenburg Tor - © Christopher Martin-9028

When night fell, I had been hanging around the Spree River near Berliner Dom so it was not a very long walk to the Tor.  Coming from the east, I photographed the front of the gate first.  The Quadriga of Victory looks like it about to leap off the top and carry forward.

Nightlines at the Brandenburg Tor - © Christopher Martin-8993

It is a stunning structure and I enjoyed spending time there and making these images.  With recent events within Germany and other parts of Europe, a visit seemed timely and it would serve many well to consider what the Brandenburg Gate has come to represent from many years of hard learned lessons about peace and unity.