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.