Dark clouds wrapped the eastern edge of the Bow Valley near Mount Yamnuska as the sky brightened at dawn last Friday morning. The storm front to the west continued pushing towards the prairies and by dawn the line of rain was directly overhead Highway 40 (Kananaskis Trail) where it crosses the TransCanada Highway.
To the west were the rows of mountains, one leading down the Bow Valley towards Canmore and Banff, the other through Kananaskis Country. When the sun cleared the horizon, light met water and a double rainbow arched over the valley’s mouth.
To the east, the sunlight hit the clouds toning them in warm pastels before dawn. As the sun rose, the colours continued to deepen absorbed by the clouds as well as skipping along the underside.
I loved watching the alchemy of the light mixing with the clouds and rain. The whole sky, in all directions, was dynamic and changed continuously through sunrise. A little later, the sunlight shone through falling rain, and I made this last photograph of the landscape of this part of the Stoney Nakoda Nation before heading up the Kananaskis Trail and spending the morning with a pair of Bald eagles at the Mount Lorette Ponds.
For the second week in a row, I caught up Grizzly bear #152, and her smile, in Kananaskis’s Spray Valley Provincial Park. Once more she was feasting on Buffalo berries. Unlike the sunny encounter last week, the rain was falling steadily providing a sheen to the leaves, the bear’s coat and the tall grass.
The bear went in and out of the bushes, eating steadily along the way. Again I was reminded how easily they can disappear within the vegetation – they are a part of the land and seem to join it and separate at will.
A couple of hours after watching a Black bear in a patch of Buffalo berries, I found this Grizzly in another one a few kilometres away. She appeared to be a very happy bear, taking some anthropomorphic liberties, I even thought she smiled a few times as in the photo above!
This female’s tag has the number 152 and she has spent her life in Kananaskis Country according to what I could find online. With the poor berry crops of the previous two years, it is not surprising she is without cubs this year. I hope that the much better fortune this year will lead to her and the other females in the central Rockies bringing many cubs out of their winter caves next spring.
At one point, the Conservation officer attending blew the fog horn which startled the bear into a short run. One that ended at the next berry patch.
She dug up the ground near the second patch a little bit too. I expected her to be solely focused on the berries but maybe a few roots made for a better, and more complete, lunch.
When she turned around to dig in another spot, it was impossible to not stare at those incredible claws!
This summer’s weather – rain and sunshine in a daily tug-of-war – has been a perfect gardener for the wild Buffalo berries. These have ripened over the past week or two and are drawing in the bears throughout Kananaskis. This Black bear made it easy for me to find him when he sauntered across the road a couple of hundred metres in front of me. I pulled up to find him standing up in the middle of a patch feasting on the berries.
They are a great source of calories for the bears so it is wonderful to see so much fruit this year. Some years are not nearly as abundant and it seemed like that was not lost on this beautiful bear. He appeared to be relishing almost every bite. The berries stretched back into the forest and he slowly made his way further back as he ate. I lost sight of him shortly after these pictures but could see branches bend and hear the odd one crack for several more minutes before he vanished back into the wilderness as they often do.
I started this year’s Calgary Stampede with an afternoon at the rodeo with two good friends. We were part of a larger band of harmless troublemakers so the party started before and continued after the rodeo was over. Photography wasn’t my focus on this visit to the grounds but I did have some good opportunities from the seats in the infield right above the chutes.
It was great to see the cowgirls, cowboys and all of the animals in action. Judging by the capacity crowd and all of their happy faces, I wasn’t alone. Happy Stampede!
When my children and I decided to head out from Redwood Meadows to find a good vantage point to watch the lightning storm hanging over the Bow River between Cochrane and Calgary, we stopped when we got past the edge of the forest and could first see the storm itself.
We found a spot 10 miles from the closest edge of the storm and watched the show which rippled and flashed in the massive clouds rising off the northern horizon.
At one point while we were watching the lightning erupting at 3, 4 or 5 different places at once, my son said, “Baby Thor is having a temper tantrum”. That seemed about right and apparently he has an enormous amount of energy because the lightning flashed and the bolts flew constantly for the two hours that I was there.
I re-worked the image that I first posted from the storm – cooling the white balance by almost 1000°K. I really love how the lightning bolts crackle out of the cloud column.
On the way back, I stopped by a pond where the western edge of the storm, still busy with sheet lightning, was reflected in its surface. A beautiful final view of the storm before heading home.
I was in Banff for an early morning sunrise shoot a couple of weeks ago. Following that, I spent the morning hiking and driving around looking for wildlife. The first animal I found was this Great blue heron fishing on the first Vermilion Lake.
Following this short story of the heron in Yellowstone National Park, I thought it would be good to post another with its Canadian cousin. I watched the heron work in the long grass on the lake edge for several minutes before it turned away from the sun and flew eastward and beyond my sight.
A friend and I spied this owl while on a short drive to scout out locations for a photo shoot. This is my tenth year living in the Bragg Creek area and this was the first Barred owl that I have seen here. It was the first time I have seen one in the wild anywhere for that matter. It is an understatement to say I was excited! The dark eyes are so striking compared to my familiarity with the glowing yellow eyes of the Great gray, Great horned and Snowy owls which I photograph throughout the year.
The owl was perched in plain sight – the fast approaching dusk had dimmed the daylight which suited this mostly nocturnal hunter. That made a fast shutter speed a challenge but that was a very minor challenge. She flew from the post to a branch a couple of metres above the long grass edging the road. Her head swivelled and angled as she searched for dinner. Within a couple of minutes, she locked in and made a dive headlong into the greenery. One dive, one strike and one kill.
From down in the grass she shifted the field mouse to her beak and then flew up and in front of us, heading into a stand of trees on a small ridge.
I lost her in the forest and the gloom but look forward to a follow-up encounter whenever it suits her.
The Great gray owls are a favourite animal of mine. No surprise there for anyone who visits my site. This time of the year is great for photographing them near where I live so I often don’t travel too far afield – content to spend my time watching this beautiful birds. This weekend, I’m breaking with habit and heading to Yellowstone National Park. For all kinds of reasons I have not yet been there so I’m really excited. The wildlife and the landscapes there have filled my dreams for years so I can’t wait to get going later this afternoon. Wish me luck – I will share what I am fortunate enough to see when I return.
And, they have Great grays down there so maybe I’ll get to see some of the Yellowstone family too!