We had a massive thunderstorm roll directly over our home last weekend. A warm night met with heavy clouds with rain, wind and lightning all in large measures. We have some incredible storms in the summer – this one felt like the first of those. Here the forest in my backyard is silhouetted by lighting arcing across the clouds in the storm.
Last summer we went to Whitehorse to visit my girlfriend’s family. One of the nights, we noticed a few lines of color waving in the sky above our patio. We hopped in the car and drove out of town. Whitehorse is a pretty small city but the urban lights were too bright for the display to stand out. We followed a gravel road up a forested hill to a stony field that opened up.
The moon had not quite set when we set up so the first half an hour had the bright moonlight, illuminated clouds and muted northern lights blending across the night sky’s canvas.
The moon set and the aurora display intensified as well so that the greens, blues and traces of purple rippling above were mesmerizing. We stayed there for a couple of hours. That was my first time to the Yukon and it was wonderful to be able to enjoy the Northern Lights that far north. I hope for the same kind of luck when we visit there next.
January 1st has been a good, and wonderfully relaxed, start to 2020 for us. The fireworks at the Redwood Meadows community sports field last night did a great job of ushering in the new year. All the best to you and yours in this new year.
The fireworks were great. Thank you to the people involved in the evening’s light show.
A good friend and I went up to Moraine Lake at the beginning of June. We photographed from dusk into dark, crashed out for a couple of hours and then shot the sunrise. These are a few of the photographs as the time rolled by.
Into the night…
Rising with the sun…
My family spent a few days in Radium at the end of March. I had not been that way since last fall. Driving through the Sinclair Canyon’s narrow opening into the Columbia Valley this time, the steep rock walls grabbed my attention.
I went there early on three of the four mornings to play with those solid forms. Lights from passing traffic traced bright lines through the long exposures.
The last morning was the earliest I arrived – a little after 4am. I had some ideas for images with star trails through the gap in the canyon. The clouds were not supportive of those ideas. I watched them knit together and block the night sky as I was setting up. Those ideas will get another chance later this spring I think.
On Saturday I watched the morning arrive on the shore of the Bow River. I was across the water from Calgary’s downtown and used the Center Street Bridge as a focal point between the sky and the buildings. I parked along Memorial Drive and checked the sky in a couple of test photographs. Traffic came by and made for a good start.
On the other side of the road, the rocks, snow and ice along the river bank presented an interesting foreground. It was a bit hectic teasing out compositions as the light was changing rapidly. But that’s pretty fun chaos by any measure.
The eastern sky had bundles of pink cotton candy for a few minutes. To the west the pink was a pastel that looked very pretty reflected in the Bow where it passed Prince’s Island Park.
Mallard ducks and Canada geese milled about flying up and down the river. The cackling and quacking across the water along with the occasional group of vehicles passing behind me on Memorial Drive joined the river to perform the morning’s soundtrack.
I’ve been wanting to put together a couple of posts with common themes using photographs which I have not published. These aren’t the best of the year series, I’ll look to have those out soon though. They are simply photographs that I would like to share.
So, I’ll start with a few images taken at night and see what follows after. Thank you for indulging me in a bit of reverie!
I’m often out at night to chase the Northern Lights, watch the stars or waiting for dawn to come. The moon always draws my attention when she’s up and I’m out.
Calgary’s downtown lights also have a definite charm. Here I stood over the Elbow at River Park just before Christmas.
Seagulls fly over the Bow River during a blizzard in Calgary’s downtown.
A reflection pooled in the cobblestone of Montreal’s old port district caught my attention during a night spent in the grand city.
One of the very best nights was watching the fireworks on Canada Day with my son at Mont-Tremblant.
2 seconds at f/1.8 on ISO 4000
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.
5 seconds at f/2.0 on ISO 3200
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
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!
Vehicle lights stretch across the scene during a two second long exposure. I set up across the road from this farmstead and the sign. I took a few photographs of the passing traffic. I liked this one as I thought it had beautiful tone and good luck with the interesting light trails. A photograph an hour after sunset from west of Calgary near the Springbank Airport taken on December 15th.
Early Friday morning was the peak of Geminid meteor shower. My camera braved the wind and the cold at the separate locations south of Cochrane near the Trans-Canada Highway. Apart from setting up at each new spot and checking the gear occasionally, I stayed in my car wrapped up in a heavy blanket. The shower lived up to expectations and I saw a lot of streaks across the sky. A few of those were in the camera’s field of view.
I used 30 second exposures and then stacked each location’s set to create the star trails. I used the program StarStaX to stack the individual photographs (great program – fast, clean and free – donate if you try it and find that you like it).
To be honest, I was hoping for a few more big streaks across the scene so I’m looking forward to trying it again (next year!) Two separate flights carved through the second scene that I photographed. That looked cool though not what I was planning for. The sunrise which followed was exceptional and I will share a few of those photos soon.
During a cold night in November where ice fog spread low around the Springbank Airport west of Calgary, I photographed around the area for a couple of hours. I started capturing light trails from traffic going through the intersection where the Springbank United Church stands. Most of these exposures were close to 20 seconds to allow the vehicles to pull their lights through the scene. Later I moved towards farm fields nearby and caught the moon as it rose out of clouds and shone over the mist. The intensity of the nearly full moon allowed for shorter exposure times which suited me well – my hands were chilly by then and I was ready to pack it in soon after.
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 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.
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.
This lake is near Mont-Tremblant and has a lovely beach where my son and I swam the day before this heavy storm blew through the Laurentian Mountains.
The lightning strikes came in sets, striking the hills across the water. Beside the beach is a pier and a small covered area where I was able to hide from the rain. That afforded a wonderful view of the lake and back towards the vibrant little town. Of course, much of that view was illuminated only by the flashes of lightning – most along the hills across the water but a couple were over the community.
I felt the accompanying thunder from those deep in my chest. Frequently, the wind ripped through the valley and drove the rain horizontally. The temperature dropped fast when the storm approached and stayed cool through the evening. I was glad for the rain gear I had stashed in my pack.
There were occasional stretches where everything calmed down, almost to catch a collective breath, but the storm crashed across the mountains relentlessly otherwise. A proper summer storm by every measure. After a couple of hours, the rain picked up even more and I thought it was well past time to get home.
A fierce thunderstorm in the Mont-Tremblant area of the Laurentians in Québec last night. Steady sheets of lightning, howling wind and hammering rain accompanied the thunder that rang across the valleys for hours. This photograph was from Lac Mercier just after midnight. When this lightning cracked, it shook the gazebo I was standing under. I left a few minutes later – I’d had enough and the rain that followed shortly afterwards was of an almost biblical level. It was time to get home. I will share a few more from the night soon but my son and I are off to Ottawa to visit Parliament Hill.
Kian and I headed up the ski hill last night to get a good vantage point for the fireworks. We found a great slab of bare rock near the flying mile chairlift and enjoyed the explosions as they lit up the village and echoed across the valley.
Pretty fantastic to spend a warm night watching the light show above this pretty little town with my son.
Following the enjoyment of watching the fiery, hazy spell cast by la Joute fountain in front of the Palais des congrès, I continued on to the old port. This area is the historical heart of Montréal and one I had not spent time exploring before. Restaurants and cafes were winding down for the night as I walked past and people were making their way home. That left the cobblestone streets, lined with some of the oldest buildings in Canada, to me and the occasional group of merrymakers and travelers. I played with some long exposures, stepping into a few of those frames, and some motion blurs (images of the Ferris wheel on the waterfront from that night can be seen here). I ended up getting pretty tired towards the early morning so that impacted the photographing a bit but I’m glad I had time to have a look around. I’m excited to get back there again in a couple of weeks. Hopefully with more time and during daylight too!
Recently I was in Montréal and my first destination was the Palais des congrès. A stroll down Avenue Viger led me to this convention centre and the beautiful façade of colorful glass windows that drew me there. I crossed the street to frame the windows behind the fountain in the park there. La Joute is the name of the sculpture fountain and it breathes fire! I didn’t know that when I arrived though. Standing at the edge of the fountain’s pool, I overheard a boy ask his brother when the fire would start so I decided to wait and see what would come next.
A few minutes later, a thick haze started to roll over the water and soon covered the pool and rose up towards the bronze sculptures of animal and human figures. The presentation was impressive and had a gentle flow as it moved from water into fog.
A few people had gathered and were enthralled, as I was, when the first flickers of flame began to appear around the central statue. These flames connected into a complete ring of fire and rose a foot or two off of the water.
The backdrop of the Palais made for a lovely atmosphere and a great scene to photograph throughout the sequence.
I had an extended layover in Montréal a couple of weeks ago and spent the night photographing in the old port area. The ferris wheel on the harbour front opened last year and is eye-catching addition to the city’s skyline. I wandered down to the waterfront close to 11 with a warm rain starting to fall which found me thinking about puddles and reflections.
The wheel closed at 11 so I was lucky to arrive in time to watch a couple of the different colors they project onto it while it is open. Afterwards it is lit in simple white but I liked photographing that too. I will share some photos from around the old part of the harbour but for this one, it’s all about La Grande roue de Montréal. There may have been controversy behind this installation and I am a sucker for Ferris wheels but I think it works as part of the waterfront.
This last one was taken quite a bit later in the night. I went into the frame to fill the narrow slot with my silhouette. I didn’t intend for that to add a slightly foreboding tone to the image.
On the weekend there was a minor geomagnetic storm which enveloped the Earth for a couple of days. Around midnight on Sunday I could see a green glow along the northern horizon so I walked down to the Elbow River. It runs near my backyard and I was quickly down at the water. A couple of hours saw a few sprites stretch away from thick Aurora band which stayed low in the sky. However the Northern Lights were comfortable doing a slow waltz on this night. Next time I’ll hope for a more energetic dance but I certainly enjoyed the quiet beauty that was shared.
Last Tuesday, April 17th, Venus shone brightly as dusk fell. It joined a beautiful crescent moon in the northwestern sky. Stars began to pop out while the night took hold. I had been out walking my hound and thought the silhouettes of the line of trees above the Elbow River near my home would help frame the conjunction nicely. When I got back to the house, I quickly gathered my gear and went out to the river – I’m glad I did.
As the moon dropped, I kept moving west, upriver, the descending tree line allowing me to keep the Moon in sight. Some gauzy clouds came in low and afforded some interesting, hazy halos around the Moon.
Eventually the Moon slipped behind the trees and quickly disappeared leaving Venus glowing in a sky filling up with stars.
Before I packed up, I took one last long exposure facing west where the river winds past Bragg Creek and on to the front range of the mountains in Kananaskis Country.