Ran across some beautiful, warm evening light when I was in North Myrtle Beach a few days ago. I was walking on the boardwalk around Prices Swamp Run and the reflections in the rippling water were beautiful.
I was out on a windy hill east of Calgary’s downtown core on Monday night photographing the city center at sunset. There were some great clouds that soaked up the light to create some beautiful hues that reflected into the buildings. As the sun fell, stray light would find a clear patch through the clouds and then bounce around the glass on the buildings. A beautiful scene to photograph, here are a few from the evening.
Although it is no longer the tallest building along the skyline, the Calgary Tower is still an icon for the city. This is a different look at the building as dusk quickly advanced.
A view of the whole downtown as the sunlight waned.
I went up to Elbow Falls to see if the aurora borealis wanted to come out and play. Recently I have been dreaming of images of the falls with the northern lights reflecting off of the water and casting an unusual glow on the land. So, I sat on a snow-covered boulder for a couple of hours after sunset waiting. The ionosphere was quiet while I was there and I didn’t see any trace of the lights (I checked AuroraMax the next day for the night’s activity and things picked up around 11:30, an hour after I left my perch above the river). However, the sky fading into night was beautiful to watch and when the stars emerged from the thin haze above the valley they were brilliant. Here, Betelgeuse is the orange star above the three stars that form Orion’s Belt and the large star above the ridge is Canis Major.
With time on my hands waiting, I kept busy photographing the river from a couple of spots and shooting the sky. Two great subjects to work with. In the image above, a high ISO and wide aperture setting allowed for a relatively short exposure in the darkness which kept the stars from tracing their march across the sky while allowing the water and clouds to stretch and blur. The grain in the image doesn’t work for some people but I like it here and I chose to leave most of it in during the processing.
Turning my back to the falls, I was facing east out of the mountains towards Calgary. The urban glow was faint to the human eye but I tried a long exposure and was struck by the colors and textures captured by the haze and wispy clouds. I played around with settings trying to get as many of the stars as possible to be visible as they created a great pattern amid the colorful sky.
So, I’ll be back up at Elbow Falls again to watch for the northern lights soon. The peak of the sun’s current active phase if forecasted to be in 2013 so there should be great opportunities to realize at least a few of the visuals rolling around in my head.
This is my favourite image that I made last year. Simple composition, interesting patterns, good colour and a great memory behind it.
These monks worked with our small group on and around the U Bein Bridge in Amarapura in Myanmar. We had gone to their monastery and spoke with the Abbott and then with these monks about the photographs that we wanted to make that afternoon. They were interested to see the end result and really cooperative through the whole time.
The footbridge runs 3/4 of a mile long and is made of teak columns salvaged in 1849 under the direction of the mayor at the time, U Bein. He got a bridge named after him and the people got a way to cross Lake Taungthaman from Amarapura to an island in the middle. The traffic is steady in both directions in the afternoon and into the evening with school children, workers, families and monks crossing on foot and bicycle.
Our guide, Win, used one of the boats that take tourists for a float along the bridge to ferry the monks to a small spit of land about halfway between either end of the bridge. At this time of the year, in February, the water is low enough that there are a couple of places that stay above the waterline around the bridge. In the dry season, I was told the lake can be almost empty. In the wet season, the water has been higher than the walkway! I hope to get back to see either of these extremes. From the little island there is a set of stairs that lead up to the bridge deck. The monks and our guide went up and our group of four photographers headed away from the bridge to frame the scene the way each of us were imagining. The sun was dropping slowly at that point and I was starting to get excited because the light was warming up and I was hopeful that we were heading towards something special.
The scene on the bridge was chaotic and our guide was busy explaining to the people lingering around what we were up to, why the monks were standing between the pylons and when we were hoping to get a break in the traffic. The crowd built up slowly but everyone was patient and seemed to enjoy watching us waving and shouting back and forth to get the men on the bridge in place.
Win was fantastic sharing what we were doing with the people as they waited, and they in turn were great, waiting for about 10 minutes on both sides while the sun fell in line with the monks and the bridge. It moved very quickly and as it did the gold colour in the sky gave way to blue and purple tones as the sunlight had to push through more atmosphere as well as the haze rising up from the water and the forest.
The photograph immediately before my favourite was fun because I had just changed lenses to a 300mm with a 1.4x extender to get as much reach as I could. This was the first image where I was able to isolate the blue and purple section of the sky away from the golds and oranges. That allowed these darker colours to really saturate. That’s when I knew I had the background that I had imagined to frame the monks against.
The last shots of this scene caught the sun as it went under the bridge and then disappeared into the hillside across the plain. From the moment where the sun was just above the umbrellas to where it is peeking under the bridge took just over three minutes. It seemed much less as I was photographing the scene – a flurry of shooting, checking histograms and adjusting settings and compositions. It was a very special opportunity so I was doing everything to make sure that I was getting the best that I could out of the moment. A great memory of a wonderful place.
Here, I panned with the one of Calgary’s C Train cars as it moved out of downtown towards the southern reaches of the line. I used a longer exposure, 1/4 of a second, to really stretch the lines of light and dark in background. Usually I pan the trains at between 1/10 and 1/20 of a second as that allows for decent blur streaks in the background and achieving a sharp subject (the train or sometimes its occupants). Longer exposures can end up a blurry mess quite easily. In this image, my panning matched the train’s movement pretty well so outline at the front of the vehicle is clearly that of a train. Not sharp but I think there is a good balance between the background blur and the lines and edges of the train. I think there is a lot of movement in this photo which was my intent.
On Boxing day the afternoon gave way to evening in a rush of color that pulled me outside, running down the path to the river. I had enough time to get the tripod set up and make a few photographs before the pastel hues evaporated, leaving the dark shades of blue to fight briefly against the night.
This river is the Elbow and it runs down from the Canadian Rocky Mountains, east through forests in Kananaskis and out onto the Albertan Prairie through Springbank. The Elbow River’s source is Elbow Lake, from there it runs through a large section of Kananaskis, past Bragg Creek and enters Calgary at Weaselhead Flats. West of the Calgary Zoo, the Elbow joins the Bow River and they continue eastward joining the South Saskatchewan River and finally entering Hudson Bay. It does not draw as much attention as the Bow River which runs through Banff, Canmore and Cochrane before reaching Calgary. However it hosts many beautiful locations and is where I spend much of my time photographing when I’m outdoors throughout the year.
The low trajectory of the winter sun here in Alberta results in a short day with sunrise currently at 8:35 am and sunset at 4:30 pm. The angle makes for really good light through much of the day which compensates for the reduced daylight. The drives home have allowed me to enjoy some really nice sunsets. Here are a few that I was able to stop and watch for a few minutes.
This last one I wanted to get a soft feel to the scene but I may have gotten a bit carried away resulting in too much blur in the mountains. The fickle beauty of experimentation – sometimes it works and other times it seems to take time off.