We had a massive thunderstorm roll directly over our home last weekend. A warm night met with heavy clouds with rain, wind and lightning all in large measures. We have some incredible storms in the summer – this one felt like the first of those. Here the forest in my backyard is silhouetted by lighting arcing across the clouds in the storm.
The squirrels continue to race around the trees in our backyard. Social distancing and self isolation obviously have no meaning for them. Still, I did identify with this one for a minute when it perched alone. Soon it resumed scrambling up the trunks and leaping across branches. It drew a little closer to the balcony in short order.
Last April, I was on Washington’s coast photographing in the Olympic Peninsula west of Seattle. The Sol Duc Rainforest was one of the incredible forests that I spent time photographing in. I found the old growth with the density of wilderness to be stunning. It’s a beautiful location to get lost for days. I had a few hours and look forward, down the road, to get back for more.
Last June I traveled to Radium with my children. On our travels there we passed through the Kootenay National Park during an early summer snow storm. We stopped along the Kootenay River to photograph the icy blue water and bright green of the young forest being met by the white blizzard.
As cool as that visual could have been, self isolation would frown on people congregating in our backyard. Instead, a flock of 60 or more Bohemian waxwings flew into the trees behind our home in the morning. They nibbled at the trees, and the odd chunk of snow hanging in the branches. Flitting around the forest edge, I enjoyed their industry for half an hour as the morning sun shone over the hills. These are a favourite backyard bird for me. They don’t come around my home often but it is magic when they do.
The home isolation as the world buckles down is hard. We are very fortunate to live in a forest so the time at home affords the opportunity to watch the trees and the wildlife that lives in it. These blue jays come by a couple of times a day. I’m sure I’ll be sharing more from my backyard for a while to come. Be safe, be isolated and find hope.
It has come too soon but I am enjoying the beautiful colors that fall has brought. Snow is falling this weekend so autumn may be cut short this year – we’ll see.
I’ve had fun playing with longer shutter speeds and moving through the focal length during some of those. Some of the images have an abstract, painterly quality which I love. I still like photographing the changing landscape in more straightforward ways too. Most scenes I end up shooting in a few different ways to see which works in that moment. Here are a few from the past couple of weeks in and around Bragg Creek.
On a side note, it has been a long time since my last post. I have kept shooting but haven’t made time to publish anything for a little over two months. A lot went on through the summer. The biggest change has been falling in love with a wonderful woman. Aside from my children and how they continually amaze me, that has been the highlight of a summer that has absolutely flown by.
(Please click on any image to open a separate window to see these panoramas in a larger version)
I have been enjoying creating panoramas by merging a number of shots into one wide image. The workshop that I went to on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington recently brought that approach back in to my plans. It’s been a while since I shot them with any regularity. The rainforests there are well into spring and were amazing to photograph for panoramic concepts. Forests have incredible depth, details and patterns and that was a focus while I was in the Pacific Northwest.
When I returned home, a cold weather pattern was knocking around Alberta. When a snowstorm blew in, I headed out to photograph the forest and see if any pano opportunities jumped out. The storm grew into a blizzard. It was cool to have the increasing density of snow as a variable to the images. We’ve had a few really good days in the week afterwards. Before the next one comes in this weekend.
Greedily, Old Man Winter has snuck past Spring once more and released another day-long blizzard across southern Alberta. The snow fell in thick flakes, speckling the sky then blurring the forest as it neared the ground. I’m looking forward to greenery, especially given how lovely Seattle was when I was there last week, but this was a storm which cast a beautiful spell over the landscape west of Bragg Creek.
I’m in Seattle for a dear friend’s photography workshop on the Olympic Peninsula this weekend. I was lucky enough to wander the gardens and forest around his wonderful home yesterday. Coming from Alberta, the blossoms, warmth and greenery was almost a shock to me. Certainly a glimpse of a future we will hopefully see within a couple of weeks. The light on the bark of this cedar danced well with the abstracted shapes in the background. Those were thrown out of focus by the a shallow depth of field using a 24mm lens at f/2.0.
I went to the Bragg Creek Provincial Park just before the latest snowfall. Wandering along the Elbow River, exasperated chirping voiced several nearby squirrel alerts accompanied me.
Curiosity took over one’s hesitations and he climbed down from a treetop to watch me from a branch a couple of meters off the ground. I crouched low and stayed still and soon he was digging out a pine cone from the sticks and snow.
With the right one gathered, he raced back to the tree and had breakfast from the low perch. It was interesting to watch how he whittled down the cone. Clever, efficient and dextrous work.
Once done, he let out a few chirps. Conveying either the all clear or the threat’s still here – or something else altogether – before leaping away. A couple more jumps along with some branch runs and he was out of sight. His and a few other chirps spun through the woods now and again as I continued wandering.
Ahead of the winter storm which hit late Monday, I went to Kananaskis to enjoy autumn in the mountains. The clouds were leaden, already suggesting snow when I watched them wrap around Mount Kidd in the fading darkness.
I waited for dawn on the low ridge above Wedge Pond. The little lake looked beautiful but the brightening sky was much less so. The clouds did diffuse the light which supported taking a few landscapes of the larch that ring one side.
I wanted to get a hike in so I packed up and headed off to the trailhead for the Galatea Lakes. I grabbed my tripod, threw on my backpack and headed up.
The trail followed Galatea Creek as it wound up the valley towards the lakes. I photographed steadily as I wandered along. It came as no surprise that I hadn’t covered more than a couple of miles before I needed to return home. It was nice to get lost really seeing and enjoying the forest, the splashing water and the mountains for a couple of hours.
I’ve been hunting for images of the autumn that has been hurriedly ushered in. Here is one from the day of the first snowfall last week. I was east of my home in Redwood Meadows and found this wonderfully coloured stand of trees. The snow continued on for much of the day and I looked for more scenes like this.
The wildfire smoke gave the setting sun a fiery hue as it fell towards the horizon on the first day of August. A few minutes earlier I had watched as it slipped into the clouds rendered indistinct in the hazy atmosphere. When the orb re-appeared just above the horizon, with the pink light tracing out the tops of the cloud bank, I enjoyed this beautiful moment.
Almost two months ago, I came across a great gray owl that was surveying a bog from the top of a weathered fence post. I watched him for a few minutes as he looked around. Then the big, yellow eyes watched me for a few seconds before the wings stretched out and he flew up the hill towards me. These owls move quickly when they choose to so I was reacting not thinking when he took to the air. I was happy to have a few shots of that approach.
I thought he would fly by, but another post a couple of meters away from me was his destination. He looked around for half a minute, then stared at me while launching into the air again. This time he passed close by, crossed the path and then flew to a broken tree branch in the forest.
It was early evening and seemed to be supper time as he dove into the tall grass a couple of minutes later. That yielded a vole or some kind of field mouse. I couldn’t tell as he swallowed it while on the ground and mostly out of sight.
Reappearing after a short while, he ascended to another branch briefly and then flew deeper into the forest.
On the first day of October, I was in Banff National Park and found great fall colors across the Bow Valley. I returned to Hillsdale Meadow along the Bow Valley Parkway where I expected the larch would be showing their best golds and yellows. I wasn’t disappointed! For this image, I used a slow shutter to abstract the landscape similar to how I had done with the same stand of trees in July. I moved the camera downwards during the 1/40th of a second exposure to exaggerate the vertical lines present in the golden trees and echoed in the evergreens in the mountainside behind.
There is a beautiful stand of aspen trees on the eastern edge of the Hillsdale Meadows which I have photographed for years throughout the seasons. Last weekend I stopped for another visit with them. This time around I was drawn to the contrast of the slender, white trunks and the dark spaces between them.
I worked a few different ideas before I found what an approach that allowed me to illustrate that contrast. Using longer shutter speeds (1/8th of a second – 1/4th of a second) and moving the camera vertically during the exposure, the blurs created illustrated the contrast in a way I really like.
This White-tailed stag was found during a short drive into Bragg Creek on Christmas day this year.
We are slowly warming up to New Year’s Eve and looking forward to the fireworks that our local community of Redwood Meadows puts on. Always a great show – and they go early so the children get to enjoy them too!
I hope everyone has enjoyed, or is enjoying the last day of 2016. It has been a winding year for our family, as it often goes, but still filled with a lot of laughs and the continued wonders of rearing my two children.
It was May of this year when I saw my first Barred owl in Bragg Creek. I’ve lived here for ten years and spent a lot of time in the forests so it was a real thrill to find a new (to me) species in the area. In late October, another one was waiting for me as I was walking in the woods along the edge of Kananaskis Country. This time, the owl watched me intently for a few seconds, scanned the ground for prey for a few more and then repeated that for a couple of minutes while I watched and snapped a few images. Eventually the owl flew a short distance away but they blend into this type of forest so well that I lost sight with the next glide that followed. A beautiful creature.
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.
On the Labour Day weekend, my son and I camped in Jasper. I hadn’t been there in over a year and I was shocked to see a vast swath of burnt hillsides in Medicine Lake area of the Malign Valley. Somehow I completely missed the Excelsior Wildfire that burned over a 1000 hectares between July 9th and 22nd, 2015. We were looking for wildlife and enjoying the chaotic weather when the sun broke through to paint select trees amid the skeleton forest left behind as a stark reminder of the wildfire.
Sunday’s sunrise shone through a narrow break on the horizon. A storm coming out of the mountains darkened most of the sky but with the light rode in from the east and painted the leading edges of the clouds. I was east of Bragg Creek along Highway 8 as the colour started to build so I pulled in behind a stand of trees that have great lines.
The branches silhouetted against the dawn gave me a lot to work with and here are three takes over a fifteen minute window before the colour drained out and the clouds stretched fully across the sky.
The snow fell heavily last night after an initial hailstorm started things off. This morning there was two inches (~5 cm) of snow on the ground. I went out for a short drive into West Bragg. I missed the Great gray owl that a couple of photographer friends watched this morning. This mother White-tailed deer and her two fawns along the edge of the snowy forest made up for that though.