Sunrise

Flashback Friday: Pelicans flying over the Sea of Cortez

It has been a couple of years since I went to Cabo San Lucas.  Thinking about an image for Flashback Friday, one from a spectacular sunrise there came to mind.  The fiery sky had me thinking about where to set up for a landscape shot when I saw a brief of brown pelicans flying low over the water.  I switched to my camera with a telephoto lens attached and watched as they rose off the water.  This let their silhouettes contrast sharply from the background.  That got me excited and I squeezed off a couple of photos before they dropped down again and continued southwards.

If you are interested in seeing a few more images like this one, here is another photo from the same flight which I posted that morning in December 2014.  And, another post where one pelican flew very close to me a couple of days later and I isolated the lone bird against the sky and the rising sun.

A few minutes later, I returned to landscape hunting and was not disappointed in any way with what nature laid out before me.

 


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.


Light trails at dawn along the TransCanada

A couple of weeks ago I went to Springbank, just west of Calgary, and made a few long exposure photographs from the overpass that leads to Calaway Park to the south and the Springbank Airport to the north.  The TransCanada Highway runs west from Calgary, under this bridge and a few more, before heading into the Rocky Mountains.  As night faded, the line of the mountains in their snowy blankets stood out.

 

To the east the sun painted the scattered clouds before it rose above the eastern horizon.  The color from the headlights, tail lights and reflections in the shiny pavement patches balanced the sky in a way I liked.

Shortly before the sun rose, the landscape and clouds to the west were illuminated with soft, even light which helped the light trails to really glow.


Sunrise over prairie farmland east of High River

I enjoyed another sunrise on the prairies east of High River this weekend.  This time around, I used a couple of farms and their buildings to break up the line of the horizon.  The layers of cloud across the sky caught the sunlight presenting a range of pastels as the morning moved through dawn.

I stepped infront of the camera when I had the tripod facing the beautiful display of pink hues in the clouds to the north.  As the sun rose it went behind a thick band of cloud so I looked down a couple of snow-covered range roads towards the Rocky Mountains before the warm light cooled and disappeared.

 


This small shack is leaning to one side and I suspect it will fall down in a year or two.  It served me well as a solitary anchor under the growing dawn on a frigid morning last weekend near Mossleigh.  I love the isolation and the constantly changing skies on the prairies in the winter.


Dawn over the prairies

I caught a sunrise on the prairies east of Mossleigh on the weekend.  Fog had rolled over a large swath of southern Alberta so the morning was spent watching skirmishes between the rising sun burning off the clouds and the walls of fog.  Here the early pink light had painted the clouds but not yet reached the fields nor broken through the opaque wall behind this tree.


Morning at a bend in the Elbow River

A morning walk brought me to this scene along the Elbow River a little after sunrise.  With snow falling outside as I write this, it feels like that may have been one of the last autumn landscape photographs for me for the year.


Continuing through dawn at one of the Vermilion Lakes

When I arrived at the second Vermilion Lake and scrambled down to the shoreline I was alone and in darkness.  Once I turned off my headlamp my eyes adjusted and a thin line brightening to the east.  Mount Rundle stood resolutely across the water and I started to make out clouds as they slid toward the horizon.

 

The image above was a 25 second exposure on f/10 and ISO 800 taken at 7:25 AM.  I used that to get a feel for how the scene looked as it was still too dark to make out much of the details and color in the sky with my eyes alone.

I didn’t mind the grass but I chose to focus on the sky and its reflection so a few steps to the right and setting up closer to the waterline was the next step.  The clouds in the image above made a great frame around Rundle and the pre-sunrise colors intensified considerably by the time that I made this photograph at 7:35 AM.

The pre-dawn light’s color faded out before 8 AM.  The lull before the fire came into the sky did not last long and I soon caught the first hints of pink catching in the clouds.  The photograph of Tunnel Mountain, Mount Rundle and Sulphur Mountain above was taken at 8:10 using a 2 second exposure on f/16 at ISO 50.  The light soon caught the clouds hanging low above the mountains in the image below (8:13 AM; 0.8 seconds; f/16; ISO 50).  From there the reds and oranges started to splash across the sky above the Bow Valley.

By 8:16, the pinks had been driven off completely.  Now the trick was to hold the really bright circle of sky left of Mount Rundle (in the centre of the image below – 0.6 seconds; f/16; ISO 50)).  I was exposing off of that circle so that the highlights weren’t completely blown knowing that the RAW file captured by my camera would hold detail in the shadows elsewhere which I could recover in post.

I played with the focal length of several images during the exposure.  This created streaks in the photograph which served as interesting leading lines into the sunrise and Mount Rundle.  I shared my favourite one of these on the weekend (here) and below is another that I really liked as well.  This one has more brightness in the foreground so it has a different feel for me (8:20; 0.5 seconds; f/16; ISO 50).

 

By 8:20, the fire was waning and only golds and oranges outlined the silhouette of the mountains.  The photograph below being one of the last from my shoot (8:22; 0.3 seconds; f/16; ISO 50).

I jumped into a last frame just before the sun came over Rundle’s flank.   I had wanted to catch a sunstar as it crested the mountain but the clouds got in the middle as can happen.  That exposure was taken at 8:50 AM with a 4 second exposure (f/16 and ISO 100) using a heavy neutral density filter to get the extended shutter speed.  A beautiful morning in one of those places I love returning to again and again.  It’s rare that it doesn’t share a new look, or a few of them, with me each time.

 

 


Streaks of sunrise in Banff National Park

 

Sunrise streaked around Mount Rundle over the Vermilion Lakes in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada yesterday. I arrived in darkness and had time to find a great spot that I have not photographed from before.  The clouds picked up the earliest light in the pre-dawn and the color in the sky continued to intensify.  For this image, I zoomed the focal length of the lens slightly during the 1/2 second exposure to create the lines of light leading to Rundle.


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.

 


A grand morning at the Vermilion Lakes

Time spent at the Vermilion Lakes in Banff National Park is always worthwhile.  It had been a while since I had watched day break there so on the weekend I drove up to do that.  I went very early so I was able to make some long exposures at the second lake before the morning arrived.

With sunrise threatening, other people wanting to enjoy the quiet spectacle came down the road to find their spot.  I didn’t mind adding a light streak into the scene!

When the clouds above the Fairholme Range to the east began to glow the day soon rushed in behind.  The lake dazzled again, as usual, reflecting Mount Rundle and framing the energetic sky above as it ran through dawn’s color palette.

A small group of photographers assembled along the shoreline nearby as the sky’s performance heightened.  The tone of the hushed murmurs suggested they were enjoying the moment.  I certainly was.