Nature

Into the forest with an owl

A great gray owl was hunting across a meadow near Kananaskis Country earlier in the week.  I watched her across the field for a while before she flew to the forest edge and landed in a tree branch a couple of meters off the ground.  Eventually she launched and dove after something in the tall grass.

That proved to be unsuccessful.  And the owl flew across the hillside into a stand of trees to the north.  I was able to watch her work between a couple of different perches until she found one in the sunlight.

The warmth in the sun may have been part of the reason she stayed there for a few minutes.

 

When she moved on, she flew low over the wet grass, then climbed into the trees and disappeared.


Red-winged blackbird in flight

A red-winged blackbird flies among brambles in a marsh west of Bragg Creek in Alberta, Canada.

This blackbird’s flight from earlier this morning was an interesting one.  He crouched low on the branch for a few seconds, longer than I was expecting, before it launched.  When he did, there were a couple of quick wing beats before diving out of sight into the brambles.

 


The last of this winter’s snowy owl encounters

 

 

Most weekends in the first couple of months of the year I spent driving the country roads east of Calgary in search of snowy owls.  I had a number of great encounters this year amid some frigid temperatures and heavy snowfalls.  The last of these visits was in early March.

I found this owl perched on a fence post in the middle of a field on a beautiful sunny morning east of Delacour.  I waited for quite a while before the owl chose to fly.  When she did, she caught the wind and rose upwards quickly before she looked my way and banked above me.  She crossed the field and dove into the snow by another fence line.  She was too far to see clearly what she caught but she finished it quickly and then flew off out of sight.

Some people continued to find snowies into April but I have been drawn to the mountains and the waterways running out of them for the last few weeks so I will look forward to next winter when I hope to find these beautiful birds again.  For now, I am enjoying the arrival of spring as I’m sure they are too as they return to their summer range north of the Arctic Circle.


Signs of spring – mountain bluebirds

A pair of mountain bluebirds were flitting around a bird house west of Calgary a few days ago.  They caught my eye when I was driving past the farmland on the way to my daughter’s dance studio.  I stopped for a few minutes, watching as they appeared to be moving into their summer home.


Spring flight – a great gray owl in the evening

I saw this owl perched in the middle of a field of bushes at first.  The sun was getting low so I felt lucky to have found her before it became too dark to photograph.

She flew low over the foliage and dropped into them for a moment – disappearing from view.  A blur of motion behind a line of still wintering trees caught my eye and I followed her as she landed on a branch halfway up the last of these trees.

A few minutes later, she flew across the field once again and disappeared into the forest.

All the while, her mate had been perched at the top of an evergreen in the middle of the bushes and I turned my attention to him for a little while.  The light failed quickly and I headed home leaving the lone owl at his viewing tower.


An Easter morning yarn

Again this year the Easter bunny made a web of sweater yarn across our main floor.  The kids each had their own string to follow to find their baskets.  Each ball was 200 meters long so it took them a fair while to track down the other end and their rewards.  The morning was interrupted with a bit of April Fools’ trickery (see the writing on Kezia’s face courtesy of her brother before she woke up!).  A lot of fun which was carried on when the grandparents came to join us for brunch.  A very good day in the middle of the long weekend.


Gulls in flight at Carburn Park

I like photographing birds – no surprise to those who follow this blog.  I’m not a birder with a long list of life birds but I really enjoy watching almost every bird I see, particularly when they are in motion.  Several days ago at Carburn Park the sky was overcast, snow fell and wind out of the north had a bit of a bite to it.  A great day to watch and photograph along the Bow River.

At one bend there was a small colony of California gulls.  A few flew off in the time I watched them.  Although these gulls are common around Calgary’s rivers through the winter, and can be easily found at any time, I had fun watching these ones fly by.

 


Vermilion Lakes – Winter Dawn


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.

 


Snowy flight over the Prairie

I found this snowy owl perched along a forgotten fence line north of Lyalta (which is east of Calgary).  After a trek across the field to get to about 60 meters away, I leaned against a post and waited.  I set my exposure so that I would have a slower shutter speed at the start.  I wanted to show some motion in the wings and estimated that 1/200th of a second would allow for that.  Fifteen minutes later something drew his attention and he launched perpendicular to me and the fence.

 

I had two nice images of him flying towards the sun before he was past me.  The first had a soft blur in the wings as they were near level.  The other caught the wings at their full extension upwards.  Both images kept the head sharp so luck played to my hand when I was panning with the bird.  The shutter speed worked out well.  I continue to try slower speeds but have yet to nail one of those with a sharp face.  I will share those when I do.


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.


Snow flying at night in Redwood Meadows

The snow flew many times in December.  This was one of the nights where I went out to enjoy one for a little bit.  Owing to the falling snow blurring the street lamps were diffused balls of light.  The snowflakes also played with the shadows, leaving some sharp while making others soft.  This storm felt like there was a good-natured mischief-maker involved.