Nature

Nightscapes in Kananaskis

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.


A short spell with a few of Invermere’s belted kingfishers

It seems longer than a month ago when Kian and I went to the Columbia Valley in British Columbia for the Labour Day long weekend.

(please click any image to see a higher resolution version)

We had a great time skateboarding in Invermere, touring around Fairmont and even did a little swimming which was unreasonably cold for the late summer.

Photography wasn’t the focus of our trip but, unsurprisingly, I fit a little in here and there.  Easily the best of these was our walk along the narrow channel of the Columbia River where it meets the northern tip of Windermere Lake.  We found five kingfishers chattering, flying and occasionally diving along the water.

This juvenile alighted on the pillar near us as we were watching another one flying on the far side of the river.  He stayed for several minutes.  Drawing a flyby from one kingfisher but mostly left alone to scout for dinner before the sun set.


Wood ducks shakin’ in YYC

Wood ducks are one of my favorite species of waterfowl (side note: that is a weird word!)  I love the plumage of both genders.  To me, they are among the most beautiful birds.  Beyond that, I like watching them paddling around, chasing one another and most of all splashing during their cleaning routine.

Last weekend I spent a couple of hours watching them carry on about their day.  Every now and then, one would separate from the raft of ducks, presumably to get some space, before dunking their head under the water several times, shaking the water off, flapping wings, rising out of the water and then repeating it for as long as they saw fit.  I didn’t tire of watching the water drops fly!


Beauty in an early snowfall

I’ve been hunting for images of the autumn that has been hurriedly ushered in.  Here is one from the day of the first snowfall last week.  I was east of my home in Redwood Meadows and found this wonderfully coloured stand of trees.   The snow continued on for much of the day and I looked for more scenes like this.

 


Sunrise moonset

At the end of July, on the 28th, the moon set very close to the same time as the sun rose.  That morning I went to a hill a bit east of Bragg Creek which had a great views of the sunrise to the east and the moon falling towards the Rockies above the western horizon.

Thick haze from the wildfires to the west softened the features of the land.  The sun, dimmed by the smoke, was saturated into striking shades of orange, yellow and red.

 


Great grays in Grand Valley

This August, I’ve taken a couple of afternoon drives along Grand Valley Road north of Cochrane.  The rolling hills and farmland is beautiful and is home to a variety of birds and other wildlife.  I have been missing great gray owls so that was my specific draw to the area.  I was fortunate on both occasions to find them; three on the first trip and one on the second outing.

This one I watched in the forest from a gravel road.  She perched on a few different branches over a half an hour before diving down into the grass.  She caught and quickly swallowed something – my view obscured by the grass and the trees but likely a vole or some type of field mouse.

The solitary owl from my most recent drive was perched in a more open area.  I was able to string together a nice flight sequence when he launched after a few minutes of watching him.


A morning with a great blue heron in Bragg Creek

I spent Sunday morning watching a great blue heron hunting for fish in the shallows of a small lake near Bragg Creek.  Early on it was just above freezing which led to mist rising off, and swirling across, the water.  The heron was on the far side when I first spotted him so I took turns watching the weather and the fishing.

The day slowly warmed up a little as did the heron to me.  I stayed put in my lawn chair and around 10:30, he crossed the lake landing about 60 meters away from me.

Herons are excellent hunters and this fellow caught fish steadily while walking in the shallows.

One more flight a little while later put him back on the far side but still quite close.

He continued hunting along the shoreline there for another 45 minutes.

Towards noon, I wanted to get home and when he flew back towards the first location I’d found him, I thought that was a sign that our encounter was completed for the day.


Springbank electrics

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.

 


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Form and light


Lightning over Lac Mercier

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 close encounter of the owl kind

Almost two months ago, I came across a great gray owl that was surveying a bog from the top of a weathered fence post.  I watched him for a few minutes as he looked around.  Then the big, yellow eyes watched me for a few seconds before the wings stretched out and he flew up the hill towards me.  These owls move quickly when they choose to so I was reacting not thinking when he took to the air.  I was happy to have a few shots of that approach.

I thought he would fly by, but another post a couple of meters away from me was his destination.  He looked around for half a minute, then stared at me while launching into the air again.  This time he passed close by, crossed the path and then flew to a broken tree branch in the forest.

It was early evening and seemed to be supper time as he dove into the tall grass a couple of minutes later.  That yielded a vole or some kind of field mouse.  I couldn’t tell as he swallowed it while on the ground and mostly out of sight.

Reappearing after a short while, he ascended to another branch briefly and then flew deeper into the forest.


Red fox in Mont-Tremblant

This fox was trotting down the road on a sunny morning in the Mont-Tremblant National Park in early July.  She stayed ahead of me when I pulled over and then crossed into the forest.  I watched it through the trees and was able to catch a nice look when she stood in a pool of sunlight.  A little further along she came back onto the road again for a minute.