A night on the western edge of Bragg Creek in January. The clouds had incredible texture all afternoon and when the last light caught them it threw incredible pinks and purples across them. A cotton candy sky glowing to see the day off. Same scene above and below – two versions.
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.
I spent a morning up at Elbow Falls in Kananaskis Country a few days ago. The sky was dark when I showed up there but I could make out the clouds as they ran eastward. Dawn came quickly as it often does at this time of the year and I was pleased that a loose knot of these clouds had not yet disappeared behind the silhouetted tree line. They caught the early light and spun it into reds, purples and oranges for a couple of minutes before the sunlight turned to gold and they continued the journey towards the prairies.
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.
After the fireworks at Redwood Meadows last night, my children spotted lightning flashing to the east. At that moment we voted to become storm chasers and we headed towards the prairies to see what the storm was all about. It turned out to be far beyond my expectations!
This storm was hanging over the northern ridge above the Bow River and stretched from Cochrane to Calgary. The size was impressive, but the electrical activity was truly spectacular. The lightning flashed throughout the peaks and valleys of the clouds constantly for the entire two hours that we watched from a high spot near the Springbank Airport. I will share more images from the night soon but when I saw this one, taken with my telephoto lens aimed at one spot that had been flashing steadily, I was excited to get a quick post out!
A cluster of grain silos sits on the horizon under the brightening dawn sky on the prairies east of High River, Alberta, Canada. I love big skies and I think the scale provided by these farm buildings helps convey that here.
The golds came in softly and then gave way to deep purples and pinks as the waning light skipped under the clouds above the western flank of Waterton National Park in southern Alberta. The first and last files were in-camera HDR images taken with my Canon 5DIII – I use this function rarely but for the second night’s sunsets, it seemed well suited to me.
One of my drives home earlier this week was made more exciting by a massive thundercloud just south of Highway 8. I stopped near the Rockyview Fire Department in Elbow Valley and photographed as it rumbled past. There were a few lightning strikes that I managed to capture but I was paying more attention to the angry beast.
It was dark, dark grey in the center, the edges were rolling fast and the temperature plunged by 10°C or more just before the rain began to fall. I scurried back into my car once the volume raised up to a downpour. Back on the road, I wondered how the storm would develop as it moved eastward. The next morning, I learned that it contributed to the flooding and heavy hail that beat up Chestermere. That was one of the mean summer storms we get in the Calgary area and I am sorry to hear about the damage it caused.
A little over a week ago, on June 13th, I spent a night out on the prairies near Nanton. I love the vast skies and many of the interesting things that fill them – above and below. I settled into my sleeping bag to watch the stars while I drifted off. That idea evaporated when I received an Aurora Red Alert indicating that there was a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights.
(If any images look a little grainy, please click on the picture to open a higher resolution version in a new window)
The image directly above was one of the first taken once I was set up. I used a long exposure of 30 seconds to stretch out the lights of a semi-trailer traveling north along Highway 2.
I played around there for a while before moving further east to reduce the golden glow on the undersides of the clouds resulting from High River’s lights.
I found a quiet field several miles away and the timing worked out as the spikes in the Aurora had just started to appear.
The Northern Lights were still glowing as dawn started to push into the sky and before 4 AM I was transitioning into sunrise landscapes.
Nanton is a small town along the Trans-Canada Highway close to an hour south of Calgary. I stayed out overnight on the prairies just east of town for some solo photographing. A storm was fading at sunset but not enough to let any color show through the clouds so I did not make any interesting images before nightfall. In the middle of the night, the Aurora Borealis came out in subtle fashion and that got me out shooting from then through sunrise. I will share some of the Northern Lights images soon but wanted to first share some of the photographs from before dawn.
I love the skies on the prairies and this morning’s canvas was beautiful. I traveled along the gravel roads and found a couple of nice locations. The layers of clouds caught different colours through the morning and I had fun composing those against silhouettes from the land.
During the chinook of the last few days there were several beautiful sunsets that I took time to enjoy. Looking west at the Rockies is one of my favourite skylines and their silhouette at dusk often adds immensely to a landscape photograph.
The chinook ended last night with the arrival of a snowstorm which continues this morning. I’m not too dismayed, it was nice to have a break of warm weather in the middle of winter.
During our stay in Los Cabos last month, each day started with beautiful mornings as the sun rose out of the Sea of Cortez. This stretch of coastline between San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas has great rock outcrops wrapped with honey coloured sand. This cove was a few minutes walk from our patio and was a fun place to play and hunt for seashells with the kids during the day. Before dawn, I had it all to my self and it was magic.
This strange cloud and a few stragglers lit up brilliantly ahead of the rising sun. I was driving east towards Calgary and stopped for a few minutes to watch what looked more like a stack of cotton candy than a regular cloud. Mind you, whenever I think a cloud is just a normal one, watching it morph unpredictably as it crosses the sky reminds they are magical creations.