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!