Outdoors

Snowshoeing on the Elbow River

Last weekend there was a break in the storms where blue sky appeared for an hour or two in the afternoon.  It was cold but the sunshine was inviting so I strapped on snowshoes and headed outside.  The Elbow River is still largely frozen over so a walk along the plain at the north end of Redwood Meadows seemed a good call.  The clouds left with snow trailing just behind their departure.

I ended up playing around more than covering any real distance.  The slope from the berm to the river was a fun distraction as I jumped down into the snow and clambered up again a few times.

I ended with a short trek onto the plain and then back along the forest.  A few photographs of some wintering berries close to the berm coincided with the clouds closing in again.  The snow began to fly and I made my way home.

 


Holiday sledding at night

Holiday sledding at night © Christopher Martin-7072

With the Christmas holiday in full swing around our house now, the kids and I went out night sledding on the 23rd.  The snow had started falling early that morning and kept going all day.  We went out earlier but had the most fun in the evening.

Holiday sledding at night © Christopher Martin-7076

Kian had the idea to take some photos and I was onboard.  A drag of the shutter (1/10th – 1/6th of a second) with a flash of 1/200th of a second to create some motion blur while freezing the kids in action.

Holiday sledding at night © Christopher Martin-7043

Holiday sledding at night © Christopher Martin-7104

I played around as they sped down the great little hill just off our back yard.  They eagerly collaborated with the images – looking at the screen after each run to see what worked and what didn’t.

Holiday sledding at night © Christopher Martin-7066

Holiday sledding at night © Christopher Martin-7130

Holiday sledding at night © Christopher Martin-7038

Holiday sledding at night © Christopher Martin-7075

Holiday sledding at night © Christopher Martin-7039

We had a blast – a great way for a daddy to spend Christmas Eve’s eve with his daughter and son 🙂


A hockey night in Calgary

Hockey night in Canada - © Christopher Martin-0966

I found this ice rink in a park near Marda Loop.  There were a few people playing hockey under the night lights.  I stopped for a few minutes to play with the patterns of the trees and lights against the rink.  I loved the setting and that everyone was out to enjoy this most traditional of Canadian pastimes.

Hockey night in Canada - © Christopher Martin-0978


Parkour Kian at Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon Parkour - © Christopher Martin-3260
When Kian and I were visiting Waterton we went up to explore the Red Rock Canyon.  Kian loved running on the slick rock and leaping back and forth across the stream.

Red Rock Canyon Parkour - © Christopher Martin-3257

I always love photographing him and when he’s in motion doubly so!  This was on the first day of our boys trip and set a great tone for the weekend.

Red Rock Canyon - © Christopher Martin-3252

Red Rock Canyon Parkour - © Christopher Martin-3231

Red Rock Canyon Parkour - © Christopher Martin-3280

Red Rock Canyon Parkour - © Christopher Martin-3281

Red Rock Canyon Parkour - © Christopher Martin-3282

Red Rock Canyon Parkour - © Christopher Martin-3286

Red Rock Canyon Parkour - © Christopher Martin-3244


Kian’s crazy jumps

The kids and I took their cousin up to the park this morning.  The playground there is pretty cool but the most fun we had was when the kids were jumping off some of the bouncy animal rides.  Taking a low angle, I wanted to make these small guys into giants.  Kian loved these photographs and said it would be alright if I shared them.

 

(click on an image for a larger image gallery)


Exploring the Rockies: a few summertime adventures in the mountains

I was working on some images of the active lifestyle in the Rockies for a client and thought the summer set would be fun to post.  With fall ready to give way to winter any day it was nice to recall the summer before the snow flies.

In July Jeff and I met a kayak team on the Kananaskis River during one of their training sessions.  We definitely had the easier work scurrying over the rocks photographing compared to waging war against and conspiring with the water.

When I was in the Tonquin Valley with Art Wolfe and Gavriel Jecan, I had a minute to photograph Gav as he was bouldering.  That ended when we noticed a grizzly bear among the rocks a stone’s throw away.

This guy, Chris as coincidence had it, was visiting friends in Jasper and came to Horseshoe Lake for one purpose: to hurl himself off this cliff about seventy feet above the lake.  I remember doing some decent jumps but shooting him descending was a different perspective.  I was impressed with his lack of hesitation and the nonchalance displayed when he swam back to the shore afterwards.  It wasn’t enough to convince me to follow suit though.

I photographed a group of para-gliders, hang-gliders and other fliers from their launch at the top of a ridge above Golden in British Columbia.  Watching them spiraling  upwards on thermals, as this lady was doing in the image above, was amazing.  I came away with a profound appreciation for the grace and the silence of these engine free forms of flight.

We went into the Tonquin Valley in August along a trail that started in forest, came up above the treeline and then slowly descended towards Amethyst Lake.  In the image above, our guide Sarah is leading our group out of the valley.  Seemingly not as adventurous as some of the other images, throw in a trailside bee hive and a six hour trek through rain and sleet, and I think it belongs.


Cochrane Lion’s Labour Day Rodeo

I was down at the rodeo with my kids and my parents for a couple of hours yesterday.  Here are a few from the events that I pulled off between runs to the fair ground and the snack tent.  After a rainout the night before, Saturday was beautiful.  A great small town rodeo – definitely part of what summer in Alberta is.

 

 


A look at the stars instead of the screen

We had a great weekend which included visiting my family in the Crowsnest Pass, spending the best part of the evening light with a bald eagle out in the Foothills and a hike with my wife and children around Fenland Trail in Banff.

Many photographs to work through, a magazine article to write, two workshops to plan and market – much to do but, when I came across this image during a licensing request, it got me to put down the keyboard and go outside and look at the stars for a while.

I made this while I was taking long exposures up at the Elbow Falls in Kananaskis.  Towards the end of my night in the mountains, I pointed the lens up at the stars and then zoomed through the range for a few seconds to generate some warp speed lines.

More posts on the Tonquin, Moraine Lake, a cliff jumper I met and the eagle soon.


Canadian Rockies Wildlife: Tonquin Grizzly Bear

Gavriel and I were working on compositions with two students among these large boulders when I noticed this young grizzly boar shuffling nearby.  He was up wind so he had not caught our scent and we were grouped on the far side of a house-sized rock so he hadn’t seen us yet.  I climbed higher on the rock and had a great view of the bear. 

He didn’t come too much closer before he noticed us.  Some people still think bears don’t see well but they are wrong – this fellow caught sight of me from a couple of hundred meters away. 

Our group of six photographers watched (and photographed) as he turned towards the shoreline and then walked parallel to our group along the isthmus dividing the two sections of Amethyst Lake.  We walked to higher ground for a better vantage point and found him loping towards the river. 

He dove in and swam across to the foot of The Ramparts where he walked along the far shoreline away from us.  In the image below he is just clear of the water and looking back in our direction.  I kept an eye out for him for the next couple of days that we were in the valley but did not come across him again.  A beautiful bear, I hope he’s able to fatten up in the next month before the snow starts to stick on the ground again.


Kayak Training Session in Kananaskis

Kayaking is a sport I’ve always been interested in.  On the weekend, my friend Jeff and I met up with a team of kayakers at Canoe Meadows on the Kananaskis River.  We had arranged with their coach to meet the team during one of their training sessions and photograph them while they practiced on the water.

Good guys, strong athletes and great water made for some fun photography.  Here are a few images from the session.

An aggressive charge by the kayaker and a longer shutter speed created an image which suggests the power of the sport and of the water.

The fast pace of the downstream sections provided a nice opportunity to drag the shutter and abstract the action a little.

Photographed just after dropping into this hole, the paddler drives in his oar and pulls himself up and out.

  The course at Canoe Meadows is highly configurable and the setup on Saturday appeared to be a good challenge that these guys had fun attacking.

A lucky break in the sheet of water splashing up affords a window into the concentration needed when you are playing in, wrestling on and fighting with a strong river.


Stampede Sunday – July 10th

I spent the afternoon back at the Calgary Stampede Rodeo on Sunday.  Some great rides across all events matched with fine weather made for a great afternoon.  The rain came with a fury later during the chuck wagon races but left us alone for the rodeo. 

As is the custom all of the day’s competitors come out at the beginning to tip their hats to the crowd and stand for the national anthem.

Here one of the mares, Lush Margie, launches Jim Berry of Rocky Mountain House, Alberta on a short-lived flight.

Wade Sumpter of Fowler, Colorado leaps on a mini bull before trying to wrestle it to the ground.

Leaping out of the chute like a beast on a mission, Broken Lady gave Ryan Gray of Petersburg, Texas a pretty entertaining ride.

Joe Gunderson of Agar, South Dakota pulls free of his ride, Kalispell Whiskey, as the horse runs along the rails sending the cowboys up the rails to get out of the way.

Kelly Timberman of Mills, Wyoming in the middle of a good test with Jay Bar Nine.

A break in the action for the Red and White

Clint Cooper  leaps while his horse stands on the brakes during the tie-down roping event.

Mid-flight after being flung well clear of the saddle during the saddle bronc event.

Lane Stuckey of Rocky Mountain House, Alberta competing in the novice saddle bronc event gets bucked off Tough Alloy.

Cory Hines from Rocky Rapids, Alberta as he and Super Nest leap out of the gate during the novice saddle bronc event shortly before parting ways as seen below.

 


Calgary Stampede: Saturday’s Rodeo

I had a full day along the rails down at the Stampede yesterday. Here are a few photographs I liked from the quick scan of the wagon load I took yesterday.

The rodeo is a great event and I’m amazed by the performances of both the athletes and the animals.  Huge helpings of strength, balance and sheer will on both sides.  And, a lot of fun to watch.

I’m just heading down for today’s rodeo, can’t wait to get back down there.


A Stag Off Lake Windermere

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I wandered away from the Lake Windermere shoreline and up a trail to this marshy field. There were two young mule deer stags lounging away the early evening in the tall grass. They showed a little interest for a minute and then went back to relaxing.

This buck stood up to walk over to a fresh set of grass. There was a bit of a glow off the velvet of the growing antlers in the soft light. With the buttercup wildflowers providing a little color and detail to the scene it was pretty easy photography. The osprey and the river otter proved to be more challenging when I finally headed back to the water’s edge.


Bald Eagle: roadside over Highway 8

Leaving Calgary on my way home to Bragg Creek, I came across a bald eagle perched on a fence post.  I love to photograph birds of prey, so I pulled off the road and jumped out of the car, camera and long lens in hand.  Some eagles stay year round here but they are not common so I’m always excited to see one.  I was curious to figure out why it was so low to the ground and close to the highway.  Usually they are up in trees and closer to rivers than roads.  As I moved a bit closer to the bird, his choice of location became obvious – there was a deer, victim of an encounter with a vehicle, crumpled in the ditch.  The eagle was in the right spot to swoop down and feed while being able to keep an eye on his prize in between.  There were magpies and a couple of crows nearby but none on the deer, they seemed to be keeping their distance.

I waited for a while to see if the eagle would go back to the deer but I must have come along right after it finished one sitting because it showed no interest in going back at that time.  Eventually it took flight and circled over the road and up to a large tree a bit further up the hill.  I left it there but probably should have set up my field stool and waited for the inevitable return.  Really nice to see one of these impressive birds in our area.


Spending the morning with moose

On Sunday morning I went into West Bragg to look or wildlife along the backroads and a few trails.  When I got to Wild Rose, there was a moose cow halfway up a driveway.  I didn’t have a good angle but it was nice to watch it eating branches for a few minutes.  While I was waiting to see if she would walk into a better position, another moose walked into another stand of branches that was much closer to me.  About 20 meters away!  She didn’t seem bothered by me so I set about photographing my new friend.

After about half an hour, her curiosity got the best of her as she walked out of the bushes, onto the driveway and walked towards me.  I stepped back towards the rear of my car and she walked around the front.

She snacked on a small group of brambles right beside where I had parked my car for a couple of minutes and then retraced her path back up the driveway.

She stopped at a few branches as she walked up the rise and then laid down on the lawn in the snow. 

I took this last picture before I left her to relax.  I hope spring comes soon so that all of the wildlife get to forage on some greenery.  I think this winter’s early start, cold spells and deep snow have taken a toll on their reserves.


Sunrise behind Mount Peechee

Mount Peechee stands a few kilometers east of Banff.  From the First Vermilion Lake, the mountain’s ridges dominate the skyline.  Standing out on the ice just before 8am, I really enjoyed this sunrise over the mountain.

Mount Peechee is 9,630 feet making it the third highest of the eight mountains in the Fairholme Range that runs northwest up to Lake Minnewanka.  First climbed in 1929, it is now off-limits for hiking which allows it flanks to serves as important pathways for wildlife.  A fantastic subject for landscape photography.

As the early morning pink colors faded, I switched subjects and focused on Mount Rundle and the storm that was moving in from the west.  I used a Singh-Ray Vari-ND filter to get a long exposure which stretched the clouds and made the most of the last bit of color from the morning.


Nightscapes on the Prairie

A snowstorm obliterated the opportunity to photograph the “supermoon” on March 18th but I was out in a field the night before to see how the moon looked.  The moon was impressive and it was really great to be out in the moonlight for a few hours.  In the image above, the pink sky is the result of the city glow and the light from the moon.  With two of the three deer walking slowly during the long exposure, they have a ghostly appearance.

As the last couple of deer trotted past, I panned with them.  Under the moonlight they were dimly illuminated so I raised the ISO, opened the aperture and underexposed a bit to try to capture enough light to show the landscape with the deer moving through it.  Even with the noise in this image I like the motion.

Below, a simple landscape image with the moon as it rises clear of a band of haze laying just above the horizon.

A long exposure looking west towards the mountains was one of the last images from the evening.  The layers in this photograph from the lights, to the hill, the mountains and into the stretched sky are interesting.

As for the moon itself, I didn’t take an image that really showed the scale of it during this close pass unlike some of the incredible photographs I have seen around the web.  This image was taken with a telephoto lens and then cropped in slightly.  It doesn’t convey how close the moon came but it is nice to photograph our lone satellite.


Storm through the Bow Valley

Following a very pretty sunrise and a great walk with an elk, this storm started to build as it moved through the Bow Valley corridor in the Banff National Park.  This great chunk of rock is Mount Rundle which looms above the towns of Banff and Canmore.  It is a favourite subject for hikers and artists.  I am certainly not immune to its siren call – I really enjoy photographing this mountain – year round it always presents an interesting face and is usually reaching into the clouds to create dynamic compositions.


The Bull Elk – The Next Day

Following my great morning spent photographing the elk, I went down the Vermilion Lake road the next day, Wednesday, with my wife and children to show them the spot where he had been.  We stopped there for a few minutes and then carried on to the second lake.  At the edge of the lake I was surprised to see the same elk standing in a couple of feet of snow eating leaves.  I didn’t bother him for long in case he had reconsidered our encounter but my family enjoyed seeing him.

I didn’t get out photographing again until we checked out on Thursday and we took a quick drive down the lake road just to see if the elk or any other wildlife was hanging around in the middle of the day.  After a couple of cloudy days, Thursday was mild and sunny so you never know what might be out warming up.   We didn’t see any animals on the drive down the lake but returning I glimpsed the familiar antlers poking up over a bluff near the road.

Driving a little further, I took this last image of the elk who defined the photography on this trip to Banff.  He was relaxed, with eyes half closed and sitting down facing the sun.  It was an easy decision not to bother him.  A bit unusual this elk in his habits and territory but I could not see any signs of ill-health or other impediments.  Just an interesting animal.  I will certainly be looking for him each time I get back to Banff.


Wild Elk in the Banff National Park

We’re up in Banff for a few days and staying at the Douglas Fir Resort (nice place with an excellent waterslide for the kids) on Tunnel Mountain.  We drove past a few elk (wapiti) cows near the lodge yesterday which served as good foreshadowing for this morning.

I went down to the Vermilion Lakes for a sunrise shoot and when I was out on the lake edge I noticed this bull elk laying down on the hill above me along the wildlife fence that runs along the highway corridor to prevent wildlife collisions.  I carried on with my landscape shooting for almost an hour and when I returned to my car saw the bull had only moved a few meters along the ridge.  I changed to a telephoto lens and climbed up the mountainside a fair distance away from him.  I stayed in sight so he knew where I was and headed up the opposite direction from where his grazing was taking him along the ridge.  I wasn’t sure if the elk would stick around or trot around the rocks.  I was wading through some deep snow so it took a few minutes to get up but he hadn’t wandered away.  I set up my tripod and then photographed the beautiful animal for about half an hour before I headed back down.  He was eating the whole time and was not bothered by me (a true advantage of longer lenses) so his head was down low most of the time.   He did raise his head up a few times, once in response to a train whistle, and I took a couple of those images.  Really a great encounter – too bad a little sunlight couldn’t break through the morning cloudbank to bring some warm illumination to that coat – but no complaints.

Elk are members of the deer family which, in North America, includes moose, whitetails and mule deer.  In sheer size, they aren’t the largest but as you can see with this buck their antlers can be incredible.  This fellow is young and skinny.  I think the winter has been hard on many animals this year with the cold and the deep snow burning a lot of calories that are hard to come by.  A very good reason to look forward to spring.


Lensbaby on the Farm

I was out at the Folk Tree Lodge yesterday and had time to wander around the farm buildings and visit the horses.  It was a beautiful afternoon, a warm day after a long spell of cold weather.  I was photographing with a Lensbaby Muse which is tricky to focus at the wide open aperture but is really fun for the slices of focus and blur you can work with in camera.  I really enjoy using this lens in strong midday light when I might otherwise be tempted to put away the camera and wait for softer, directional light.

Alvise and Paola were making use of the day and working around the farm.  Alvise was up and down the road hauling with his machinery. The colors of the hard hat and the tractor drew my attention and made good subject matter for a few photographs before I ended up talking to the horses.  They were not as inquisitive as a few weeks ago but still fun to work with.

 


Walking with moose

The deck off of our bedroom looks over the path that runs the length of Redwood Meadows towards the Elbow River.  A couple of days ago, I was looking out of the windows towards the water and I saw a large bump in a clearing in the trees just across the trail.  I ran out of the house with my 300mm lens to grab my tripod from my car and then walked up the rise.  I thought it was a moose and I was really excited to see a young cow laying down in the snow.  She seemed to be relaxing in the last sunshine of the afternoon.  With the long lens, I was able to stay a good distance from the moose and she was not upset having me nearby.  When their ears lay back and they keep their eyes pinned on you then you need to back away and possibly leave.  I try to keep that from happening so that they stay comfortable and I can spend some time with them.

After a few images, she stopped nuzzling in the snow and got up to nibble on the twigs and branches.  With her slowly walking westwards, I headed further down the path to the trail that leads down to the river.  My thought being that if the moose kept moving west, she would come to this path which would allow for unobstructed photographs with the opening in the forest.

Leaving the moose behind, I lost track of her for a few minutes.  I thought she might have headed through the forest north directly to the river but then I heard some rustling and soon saw her among the trees near the path.  Here she was munching on foliage and watching me.  I had set up in the middle of the path as I wanted her to see me and then choose whether to come closer or remain in the forest.  With moose, I prefer to make sure they know where I am as they can become stressed if you disappear then suddenly appear or create noise nearby (per the shutter on a camera).  She moved parallel to me and then crossed the small clearing and dined on the branches skirting the edge of the path.

Heading down the path, I thought she was going to the river but then she headed east, backtracking into the forest.  At that point, I thought she was gone for the day.  Evening was coming in quickly so I headed on to the river to see what the sunset might look like.  The last one I shot there in December was beautiful so it is always worth checking.  There wasn’t too much color to the west so I headed up one of the dried up channels of the river and was very happy to see my new friend once more.  She had toured through the woods and then headed to this arm of the river to continue grazing.

I didn’t follow her this time as she trekked through the snow, heading up another path to my house.  At the top of the trail, I looked for her and this is the last image I made with her heading north into a stand of trees towards the main part of the river.  Possibly to cross into the undeveloped forest there or to continue her eastward trek between the Elbow and our small community.

Moose are not a rarity around Bragg Creek, but this was the first time that I have seen a moose directly in Redwood Meadows.  A very special encounter with a beautiful animal.


The Chief of Elbow Falls

(Click the image above to open a larger and more detailed version)

The flow of water above, over and below the layers of rock that create Elbow Falls is a beautiful photographic subject at any time of the year.  In winter, with the ice and snow draped around the waterfall, I find the magic a little easier to work with and creating some compelling images a bit less elusive.

For as long as I have been photographing this spot, I have always seen the face of a chief in the rock outcropping that sits just below the waterfall.  Not only a face in the rock, the lines that draw the lips, the cheeks, chin and nose outline a sketch of the man who watches over this stretch of the river west of Bragg Creek in Kananaskis Country.


Sunrise at Horse Thief Canyon

We were in the town of Drumheller on the weekend to explore the badlands and visit the Royal Tyrrell MuseumDrumheller is in the heart of one of the world’s most productive sites for recovering fossils and the museum is singularly focused on the science of paleontology.  The kids (and the parents and grandparents) had a great time touring the displays, large and small, and I will post an entry from that chaos soon.  The exploration will have to wait until the next trip as it was too cold to head out hiking on the trails with the wee’uns.  I did sneak out (well I actually woke up my daughter before I got out of the room and my son was awake shortly after) on Monday for an early morning photo session along the Dinosaur Trail which rises out of the valley and then winds along the edge of the badlands providing a number of great viewing spots as it loops back to town.

I had two places in mind, one on the west side of the canyon valley and one on the east.  I thought that if there were good clouds visible towards the east in the predawn, I would go to the west spot and face towards the sun to hopefully catch the colors bouncing down off of the clouds into the hoodoos and other formations.  When I got outside, there were no clouds building out towards the sunrise so I went to the eastern spot so that the sun would be behind me and I could catch the “almost” full moon over the Dinosaur Valley (the name given to this stretch of the Red Deer River Valley) first and then the first light cresting the plains and hitting the peaks in the canyon.  The eastern spot was Horse Thief Canyon.  I had a memory of it from when my parents took me there about 25 years ago and thought it would be good raw material to make some photographs out of regardless of what came into the sky.  Plus, it has a great history behind it and it was fun to imagine the original brigands ferrying their stolen horses into the winding canyon to hideout before taking them to sellers waiting.

Once the sun came up, I really liked the detail in the faces of the rock walls and cliff faces in the canyon.  That absorbed the rest of the morning before I noticed that my fingers were numb and it was probably time to get back, warm up and rejoin the family (the irony that it was family day here in Alberta and I had spent the morning away on my own was not lost on me out on the ridge).

In the summer, bright yellow canola fields surround this valley adding another dimension to the scene.  I’m looking forward to getting back in the summer to hike and to see another side to this special place.