With the day slipping away from the Vermilion Lakes in the Bow Valley, the clouds began to light up in the last light of the day. This column started out bright white and soon burned into a hot pink. It hung over the valley between Sulphur Mountain and Sunshine Peak brushing them with a faint pastel hue before dimming as night took hold.
I walked down to the Elbow from my home this evening as the sun neared the western horizon. Dusk brought some lovely color the clouds stretching eastward. I found this sliver of open water and the interesting ice around it which anchored the scene nicely.
Highway lights and morning sky – 20 seconds at f/11 on ISO 400
Having stayed out late to photograph the Geminid meteor shower, it was dawn much sooner than I expected. I frequently (always) lose track of time when I have a camera in hand – this was no exception. The last place I watched for the meteor streaks was near the Jumping Pound Road’s overpass of the Trans-Canada about 15km west of Calgary.
Mailbox sunrise – 30 seconds at f/11 on ISO 800
When I caught the first hint of dawn along the eastern horizon, which was preceded by an unplanned, but much-needed, cat nap, I made my way to the bridge. The wind was howling as I set up. I was glad it was blowing out of the mountains and across the Prairies. If it had been in my face, I would have had a lovely collection of blurry images! I had a few when a strong gust would come up but I was able to shield against most of them.
A view from the Jumping Pound overpass – 20 seconds at f/11 on ISO 200
As the sky lightened the clouds started to separate from the night sky. I got excited as I saw the first hints of color catch in the edges and folds. They were drifting into and out of beautiful shapes as Helios and his chariot approached the horizon. The image below, with Venus glowing through the pink tinged clouds, is probably my favorite from the shoot.
Venus above – 30 seconds at f/8 on ISO 400
In the longer exposures, the traffic below was rendered indistinct by the longer exposures but the trails carved out by their lights gave me strong, dynamic elements to work with.
Eastern fire – 1.8 seconds at f/22 on ISO 50
While the clouds were ablaze to the east just before sunrise, the west was a different scene altogether. My last photograph of the morning was of the farm north of the bridge under a sky sketched in pastels.
Alpen glow and morning calm – 4.6 seconds at f/22 on ISO 400
Winter retreated last week and the autumn skies have been beautiful since. West of Calgary, near Springbank, the clouds glowed above the sun as it rose behind a farmstead earlier this week.
These clouds hung in the sky so they created a soft line blocking some of the rays from the rising sun. That made for an interesting image with the tall prairie grass and weathered fence line to balance.
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.
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.
The smoke from the wildfires in British Columbia and Alberta continues to come and go west of the Rockies in southwestern Alberta depending on severity of the fires, the weather and the wind. One morning last week it was particularly thick and made the rising sun a circle of deep red, orange and yellow. At one point wispy clouds layered above the sun that was truly beautiful to me.
I spent the first half of the weekend in the Rocky Mountains of western Alberta and loved every minute. An amazing display of the Aurora Borealis over Lake Minnewanka and the first Grizzly bears that I’ve seen this year were among several highlights from the trip. In this image, clouds cleared out of the valleys just after sunrise in Kananaskis. I was continually reminded how beautiful this part of the world is.
Before photographing down in the fog a week ago, I stopped along the Trans-Canada Highway on the hill overlooking Springbank to watch the sunrise.
The eastern sky was starting to brighten quickly and I hoped the clouds would catch the early light. The fog was quite close to the hilltop when I first arrived but it fell back down before dawn came. The sunlight did bathe the clouds in amazing colors. It was spectacular!
The sky in late October near the Rocky mountains often serves as a fantastic canvas for clouds, wind and sunshine to paint as they mix, blend and tear apart. I live on the eastern flank of the Rockies and am fortunate to be able to see a fair number of these beautiful collisions. This one was just before sunset in the third week of October on a recently paved country road off of Highway 8 between Bragg Creek and Calgary.