Only three days after I was able to watch a great showing by the Northern Lights, they came out to dance over the foothills again. The clouds were heavier this time around and grew steadily through the night while I was out. That set up for some backlighting by the aurora that looked really beautiful. This time around, I started at the same small pond as before but then drive to a couple of different spots along Highway 1 before ending my night at the small lake beside the Sibbald Creek Trail (Highway 68) where it meets Township Road 252.
At first I was trying to get away from the cloud bank as it coalesced and then moved southwards and increasingly obscured my view of the night sky. Soon I became a little hypnotized by the glow around and through the clouds so I settled down and enjoyed the moment.
After 2am, the clouds broke up and seemed to return back to the north. I was too tired to see how far they retreated and made my way home just before 3.
September closed out with several strong Northern Lights displays that reached down to southern Alberta. I was happy to make it out to the Foothills to photograph in the middle of the night for two of them. These images are from the first foray which started around 11:30pm and continued rippling when I finally headed home around 2am on the 26th.
The clouds seemed to move in slow motion and picked up the glow from Cochrane differently as the night progressed. Above, the aurora’s color palette shifted into pastels. A few of the later images reminded me of cotton candy and were fantastic to watch slowly ripple then fade away. I imagined these were tie-dyed waves rolling in both over the pond but also the sky they were reflecting.
Ursa Major and its Big Dipper were constant companions in the sky behind the dancing lights. The stars would run in and out of the clouds, hiding at times and burning brightly at other times. There was good magic to watch throughout.
Driving along Highway 22 after a day with the eagles, I was traveling parallel to the Livingstone Range of the Canadian Rockies. The foothills lead up to it in a couple of rounded hills and then the mountains jut up sharply from there. It was an impressive scene with the sharp contrast between hills and mountains as well as light and shadow of the late afternoon.
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.
Once the horses moved on, I returned to watching the brightening sky. I didn’t have to wait long for the colour to brush into the clouds.
(please click on any image to open a higher resolution version)
And when the warm sunlight came in, it only stayed for a couple of minutes. It was great to shoot a few different images while the light was really nice. The sun cleared the horizon quickly, the light cooled and the day began.
The light this evening was lovely and the lines of the hillsides of the Foothills towards Kananaskis Country looked like a water-colour painting.
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.
Leanne and Dane invited me to photograph their wedding next summer which I am really looking forward to. On Friday, we went to the ranch of a friend of Leanne’s family to shoot their engagement photographs.
Over the evening, I had all manner of skies and light to work with and Leanne and Dane were having fun playing around with me.
Good people and a very cute couple. Can’t wait for their big day.
The Lion’s Annual is a small rodeo in Cochrane that I love attending every year. It has very good talent (both people and animals) and a great atmosphere which makes you feel like a close member of the community.
I’m heading down for the Finals right now but wanted to post a couple of images I took on Saturday afternoon as the storms started to roll in.
This storm front came marching down out of the Rockies past Canmore and swept out on to the Prairie on Friday. We have had a number of these big storms over the summer which has afforded a few really great landscape photographic opportunities.
I made this image while stopped on the Springbank overpass on the Trans Canada highway west of Calgary where the road climbs up towards the mountains.
The Tsuu T’ina Nation’s reserve lands run on both sides of Highway 22x, The Cowboy Trail, as you approach Bragg Creek from the east. Every year, the band holds a Rodeo and Pow Wow in July at their Beaverdome and rodeo grounds across the road from the Redwood Meadows Golf Course.
The event is attended by nations from all across North America. The rodeo is a major pull for competitors and fans alike. Drawing on a rich history of horsemanship and true cowboy toughness, these men and women put on an exciting, unpredictable and truly enjoyable show.
Here is a sequence showing a great ride ending with a hard, hard landing…
… I spoke to this gentleman afterwards where he had missed a full ride by less than a second. He told me he almost had him and all he wanted to do was get back on tomorrow. Awesome! Pretty mean looking horse too.
I stayed late on Saturday night, with the sun leaving us in twilight, a moon drifting higher in the east and the bulls seeming to gain the upper hand over the would be riders. It was a relief at the end, as there were a couple of bad tramples. There may have been a couple of broken bones but not many moans. It has been said how tough cowboys are and watching a bull stomp on a rider’s knee or chest, that comes to light in the aftermath.
The breath holding eased as the last of the riders made their way off the dirt. Giving room for the beauty of the area and a great sporting event to take back center stage in the minds of the crowd as we shuffled out of the grandstands.
I already can’t wait for next year’s rodeo (July 22-24). If you can make it, you will have a great time and meet some wonderful people.
This great blue heron returns to this small lake on the eastern edge of Kananaskis near Bragg Creek. The great blue is the largest heron in North America. They can stand over 4 feet tall with a wingspan just shy of 7 feet. Very graceful to watch in flight and their takeoffs and landings are performances.
This year it has a mate so I’m keeping my eye out for young ones. It would be great to see this pair grow to be a small rookery in the next couple of years.
I first photographed these birds in Nanoose Bay on Vancouver Island. I still think it is special every time I see them right near my home.