Landscapes

Two mornings on Moraine Lake


Last weekend I spent two mornings waiting for, and then watching the sunrise, on Moraine Lake.  The two days were definitely not alike.  On Saturday morning, the clouds hung low obscuring the tips along the Valley of the Ten Peaks.  The color palette was decidedly cool.  It was reminiscent of the night before after the sun had set at Upper Kananaskis Lake.

The next day welcomed clear skies in all directions.  I would have welcomed a few clouds above the mountains to catch the alpenglow but the peaks down the valley soon did.  And that was beautiful to enjoy.  It had been a couple of years since the valley had shared this particular scene with me.

 

Watching the peaks glow red is stunning and I love watching that light spread down mountainsides, racing against the golden sunshine’s imminent arrival.  The transition is very fast with the alpenglow lasting 4-5 minutes before the sunshine blends in and the red disappears from the rock faces.


Upper Kananaskis Lake – sunset and thereafter

On my way up to the mountains this weekend, the sun continued its struggle with the smoke from the wildfires.  In the early evening I made my way along Highway 40 and stopped several times to watch the clouds and sun in this unusual scene.

I ended up on the shore of the Upper Kananaskis Lake about an hour before sunset.  It was a warm night which I was grateful for – even in summer the wind can blow hard and cold across the lake at anytime. Over the next couple of hours a loon, a few people fishing and one large, extended family came and went.  I moved down the shoreline slowly, taking photographs of the sun’s descent towards the jagged silhouette of the mountains the curve around the lake.

The smoke acts like a neutral density filter and drops the intensity of the sun’s light considerably.  That allowed me to spend a lot of time exploring how the atmosphere, the sunlight and the landscape could be composed.  All three changed in appearance and shape as the sun descended.

When the sun drew close to the mountains, the colors deepened and the silhouettes of the mountains were fantastic against the sky.

The fiery hues disappeared quickly once the sun fell behind the mountains.  That left cooler tones to quietly take hold.  At that point, I was alone on the shore and the tranquility held me there for a long while.

 

 


Smoky sunset on the prairie

 

The sun has taken on a strange appearance each of the last few evenings.  The smoke from the wildfires to the west was thick in the foothills west of Calgary last Thursday when I stopped along Highway 8.  The pink globe in the sky drew my attention and, once stopped, I enjoyed watching the small clouds drifting past.  This one looked like a dancing bull, or maybe a bison in full stride, as it charged across the sun.


A forest for all of its trees

There is a beautiful stand of aspen trees on the eastern edge of the Hillsdale Meadows which I have photographed for years throughout the seasons.  Last weekend I stopped for another visit with them.  This time around I was drawn to the contrast of the slender, white trunks and the dark spaces between them.

I worked a few different ideas before I found what an approach that allowed me to illustrate that contrast.  Using longer shutter speeds (1/8th of a second – 1/4th of a second) and moving the camera vertically during the exposure, the blurs created illustrated the contrast in a way I really like.


A chaotic sunrise in Banff National Park

Before the sun rose over the Fairholme Range, the scattered clouds stacked up in layers over the mountains.  They fought to catch the early splashes of pink and peach as the day approached.  The chaos of these splashes of color across the broken sky were beautiful to watch.


May Aurora Borealis at Lake Minnewanka

The aurora storms in May were beautiful.  This is one photograph from May 20th in Banff National Park along the Lake Minnewanka shoreline.  There is a good chance of more displays this weekend.  I’ll be looking up and hopefully the ribbons of red, green and purple will be dancing above.


A window of sunlight

As a storm cleared out of the Bow Valley, the clouds rose off the floor and climbed over the Massive Range.  Here, the sun lit up one of the Brett Mountain’s ridges for a moment.


A soft sunrise over the Vermilion Lakes

Dawn reached across the Fairholme Range and brushed the sky through to Mount Rundle. An eight second exposure traced the motion in the scene, blurring the water into soft streaks and stretching out the clouds above. Photographed on June 4, 2017 on the Vermilion Lakes in Banff National Park’s Bow Valley.


Scribbling with moonlight

The moon was scribbling on the surface of one of the Vermilion Lakes in Banff National Park on the weekend.


Early morning at Two Jack Lake

After a long night of spectacular auroras which I enjoyed from the western shore of Lake Minnewanka (one post here and the other there), I went to nearby Two Jack Lake to catch the sunrise.  The clouds, the sun and the mountains all conspired to present an amazing start to the morning.  The wind was a bit mischievous as it blew softly but steadily over the water breaking up Mount Rundle’s reflection in the image above and Mount Girouard’s in the one below.

At one point a Canada goose entered the water and I liked the way she showed up in this image blurring slightly during the 1.6 second exposure as it paddled by.

The goose carried on to the far side of the lake.  Later a paddle boarder followed the goose’s lead and went out for an early tour around the lake.  She was there with a photographer for a shoot – a pretty great morning for that.  I liked being able to add in a shot of her gliding across the water.

I packed up the tripod as the colour in the sky started to fade out and with the boarder making several passes in front of the scene which kept the water rippled.  I stopped at the overlook above the lake about twenty minutes later and made this last image of the paddle boarder silhouetted against the sunlit mountains reflecting in the water.


The May 21st Minnewanka Aurora – into the early morning

Following on from my last post on this geomagnetic storm, here are a few of the images from later in the night.  As the early hours of May 21st dripped past, the sprites in the Northern Lights appeared and then alternated with beautiful glowing arches.  These continued painting across the sky well past the earliest sign of dawn.

The rise of the crescent moon came just after 4 am as the aurora’s glow started to fade and night handed the sky over to day.  Within an hour the sunlight brushed its own colors across the canvas now shared with clouds instead of stars.


Splashing sunlight on the Rockies

I spent the first half of the weekend in the Rocky Mountains of western Alberta and loved every minute.  An amazing display of the Aurora Borealis over Lake Minnewanka and the first Grizzly bears that I’ve seen this year were among several highlights from the trip.  In this image, clouds cleared out of the valleys just after sunrise in Kananaskis.  I was continually reminded how beautiful this part of the world is.