Welcome to 2021. Here’s to a happy and healthy year for you and yours. There is so much that will be nice to leave behind in 2020 around the world. I hope to remember the silver linings and the special moments from a long year and let the tougher ones fade sooner than later.
I returned to Irricana recently to look for Snowy owls. I left early and arrived well before night had given much ground to day. Having criss-crossed the backroads west of the town, I have a decent feel for the farmland in the area and took the opportunity to photograph a couple of locations while the clouds were glowing pink ahead of the sunrise.
A lost wallet and a flat tire, both noticed about an hour after the last of these photographs was taken, made me feel like I earned these images a bit more than usual. The wallet had fallen out of my pocket unnoticed when I was at the farmstead above. A fair bit of time spent retracing my stops before finding it undisturbed in the middle of the gravel road. When I picked up the wallet, I noticed the flat rear tire. Along the way to Irricana, I apparently drove over a hardware store as Phil’s Auto in Irricana (very friendly people – thank you for the coffee!) later showed me the 3 inch long screw that had lodged into the tire. The wallet was recovered before I found the first owl and by the time of my appointment at 3 pm, I was happy to have had several good encounters with 5 different Snowies. I will share those soon. These prairie landscape images from a beautiful morning heralded what became one of the more interesting days I have had out on the prairies.
Autumn brings with it layers of clouds which often stretch across the morning sky and catch wonderful colors before and during the sun’s rise.
We stayed near Cardston in southern Alberta a couple of weeks ago visiting family who have a cabin there. I went out for a morning on the prairie to see what would catch my eye. I was looking for wildlife initially but the prairie landscape became the focus.
I photographed some farm scenes, abandoned buildings and foothill landscapes. Chief Mountain stands out from the line of peaks that are the Rocky Mountains where they cross Canada into the United States. The mountain is close to Cardston on the edge of Waterton National Park and holds dominion over the rolling hills east of the mountains. I have not photographed this mountain before and I liked working with the contrast of the surrounding farmland.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 24mm f/1.4 lens: 1/320 of a second at f/1.6 on ISO 50
I love driving along backroads through the farmlands on the prairies and in the foothills of Alberta. The landscape is beautiful, wildlife (when they allow you to see them) abounds and I often have the roads to myself. On these tours, I keep an eye out for interesting farm vehicles and buildings. There are many unusual items designed for a specific agricultural purpose that can be very photogenic. As purposes move forward alongside changes in technology, some of these barns, tractors and other things fall out of use and weather. This tractor is a beautiful example of the worn down equipment that dot the landscape. This old Massey Ferguson seemed to be parked in an idyllic spot to enjoy a hard-earned rest after a long run of service. That’s a rather romantic notion and I could drive by there next week and find it out turning soil in one of the fields on the far side of the pond. Whatever the truth, it was a great subject to photograph on a summer day north of Cochrane.
I roamed the back roads west of Calgary for a couple of hours last night as a storm blew across the prairies giving way to a pretty sunset. I really enjoy the opportunities to wander without a specific image in mind, working with what I discover along the way. My wife and children are still vacationing in Nelson so it’s nice to spend the evenings with a camera in hand and stave off the loneliness of the empty house. It will be great when they return home tomorrow.
As the days slipped away, I had a nice chat with Alan, the farmer whose field this tractor stands in. A fellow photographer, Alan and I found a common interest to build on after introductions. The tractor is a White 2-85 but I don’t know too much more about it beyond it running with a 6 cylinder Perkins diesel engine and the line being manufactured between 1975 and 1982 (I have no idea what year this vehicle is). Not the best looking tractor (as tractors go!) but the plain color scheme allows the color in the sky to catch the eye.
This massive cloud settled over Calgary about an hour after this photograph. I was chasing the sunset then but could see a great lightning show flashing just after sunset.
I thought this Red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis calurus) had a great perch atop the exhaust stack of this old International Harvester 706 tractor. The 706 is a really classic looking tractor, they were made between 1963 adn 1967 so it is great to see this one still on active duty.
A few photographs from around the prairie west of Calgary as spring continues to build momentum.
The distortion of the windshield suggested the heat of a summer day. When this fellow came into view I waited for him to walk into position to balance the telephone poles.
The blue eyes of this horse were a little disconcerting. I had a quick read about blue eyed horses and although not particularly rare, there is an interesting history about them. Just looks a bit crazy to me.
There is a lot of standing water on the prairies right now. With the warmer weather, the snow has all melted so the water is starting to drain out of the minor depressions. This American Coot chose a true pond which won’t run dry in the middle of the summer – most of the waterfowl are pretty savvy in this regard but occasionally there is a small family that ends up making a trek from a slough that’s become a mud pit to a deeper body of water. That said, this photograph finds the bird swimming parallel to a rippled reflection of a telephone pole broken up across the water’s surface.
I was exploring the country roads that divide up the fields along the prairie west of Calgary and found this old Ford 350 farm truck long since abandoned overlooking a river valley. The truck looked like it had been left where it finally broke down, just past a cattle guard on a dirt track that led down to an old farmstead.
With the deep blue sky of the early morning, the weathered reds and oranges of the cab and the hood made a nice contrast. I liked working in the white line on the horizon where the Rocky Mountains are still covered with snow. I will be back to this lonely Ford again soon to work in some star trails and light painting. When the new green grass comes in, I’ll return to work with the three strong colors (two primaries – red and blue, and one secondary – green) as they will allow for some dynamic compositions by varying the amount of each color in a frame. A great subject to find and I suppose it will be returning to work after having had at least a few years rest.
In the image below, I de-saturated the sky to emphasize the color in the truck (both the body and the rust on the bed’s frame. It creates an interesting feel to this image as the relationship between the truck and the surrounding environment is different.
In this final picture from this set, I walked down towards the valley so that the sun’s position relative to the truck changed from behind and streaming over my shoulder to behind the truck backlighting the truck and throwing a lot of reflected light towards the camera. The washed out color that resulted allowed for an image very different from the others.