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.
Last week one of the snowstorms that came through Calgary picked up intensity after dark. I was staying downtown near the Bow River and watched as the increasing snowfall was illuminated by the city lights above one of the bridges crossing the water. A silhouette sped in front of a light at one moment and then a dozen more did the same the next.
A colony of gulls threw waves of their silhouettes into the storm circling low over the water and then above the lights for several minutes before they appeared to settle down.
I don’t know if it was the weather, disturbance by a someone or something or members returning to congregate for the night but they were excited for a short while. I loved the grainy sky created by the snow and the shape of these dark blurs as they flew into and out of the light.
I was very excited to get out to photograph the most recent lunar eclipse. I kept an eye on the weather forecasts and knew clouds were moving over southern Alberta that night. I hoped for a break in the clouds but when I woke up early that morning the sky was low and heavy with no stars, or moon, to be seen. So, I packed up and headed west to see if I could get the western edge of the cloud front. My first glimpse was between Canmore and Banff when I came around a corner and the moon was hanging in the sky. That was not a safe place to stop and the moon alone in the blackness was not the image I had in mind so I kept going to Banff. Thought I still did take that shot a little while later!
Clouds returned by the time I was in the townsite so I headed up towards the hot springs to see if I could find a good vantage point. That didn’t pan out but when I came back down, the moon re-appeared. Now it was falling quickly towards the western flank of Cascade Mountain. Her and I then played a game of hide and seek as the clouds continued to drift in front of the red globe.
I framed the moon using trees and the mountain’s ridge line when the opportunities came. Within a few minutes it disappeared. I didn’t realize the image I was looking for but had a great time watching the spectacle. I have been able to photograph several lunar eclipses and always deeply enjoy the otherworldly beauty as the moon slips into and eventually out of the sun’s shadow.
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.