I’ve been lucky to enjoy a number of great mornings (here, here and here) in the mountains as summer has wound down. Last weekend I went to Kananaskis to see how the autumn colors were coming in at the higher elevations. I went to Wedge Pond ahead of the sunrise and waited for the darkness to lift. Soon enough it did, and quickly, revealing the larch along the shoreline were starting to turn but there were more lime greens than yellows and golds. I’ll be back again in a week or two to try to catch the stands of gold before the needles fall and the leaves blow away.
I was not disappointed in any way though. The mist swirled across the calm water, drawing a line through the middle of the mountains and their reflections as the early morning blue gave way to the alpenglow.
I went out for a mountain bike this morning along the Elbow River. The temperature was near -20°C and the snow-covered trails were a bit slippery – and it was a great ride. It was before the sun had come up and the land was emerging from the dark draped in soft, bluish light. The alpen glow in the clear sky to the west added a magical pink hue to the scene.
These two images were taken before and after the sunlight lit up the Kananaskis mountains. The first was at 8:27 and the next 13 minutes later, just a minute after sunrise.
I visited Wedge Pond to check on the fall colors and their reflection in the water. The larch and aspen in Kananaskis now have their leaves falling but a week ago the golds were still at their best. Among the rippled mirror on the pond’s surface, there was a fisherman fly casting from a float. Seemed like a relaxing way to spend an afternoon.
Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens + 1.4X extender: 1/160 second at f/8 on ISO 1600
The beavers that live beside the lake at Wild Rose are back to their busy ways now that the water is ice-free. The other night I watched one swimming along the shoreline and around its lodge. It was a beautiful evening with warm sunshine and clear skies.
I went up to Elbow Falls last weekend for the sunrise but I stayed for the American Dippers (Cinclus mexicanus).
I love watching these aquatically adept birds stalking, diving and swimming in the middle of the rapids. On the last visit to the waterfall, there were three Dippers flitting about moving between the bottom of the waterfall and the rocks at the top.
They chased each other down river a couple of times but spent most of their time fishing alone. On a quiet morning in Kananaskis, it was nice to spend my time watching them.
These two moose crossed a farm field moving towards the heavier woods of Kananaskis, west of Bragg Creek. The mother kept up a brisk trot but the calf seemed untroubled by the pace. She came towards me across the field and then joined a path that crossed a low point in the fence a hundred feet in front of me. On the road they paused for a second and then hiked up into the forest.
(click the image to go to a higher resolution version)
Spent most of the day up in Kananaskis hiking, photographing and looking for wildlife. Such a beautiful and varied country there. I get focused in on a particular location or species so that I forget about the whole package sometimes. Yesterday was one of those great times where I felt like I was enjoying, and appreciating, the whole. If you have a chance to head up to any of the areas that make up K-Country take it, I hope you like it as much as I do.
I am drawn back to Mount Kidd in Kananaskis over and over. In the morning the eastern light accentuates the crags and patterns in the rocks and dominates the skyline from many viewpoints along Highway 40. From these reflecting pools a bit further south the mountain doesn’t dominate in the same way but I like the balances that can be found between the peaks and the elements along the shoreline. Later in the morning, I worked the scene with black and white images in mind but with the first light, I was enjoying the splashes of colour.
Green algae under one of the ponds provided a green cast to some of the reflections. I thought the shapes under the water along with the colour were really interesting.
This pond had a floor of stones which was another detail to play with.
With the pink light receding to warm morning sunlight, I liked how the land still in shadow had a cool tone contrasted with the mountain and its reflection.
I had a chance to photograph two separate coyotes along the Highwood Pass highway over the weekend.
They were a few miles apart. The first one was on the move and headed along the edge of the trees for a minute before heading up and into the forest.
The second was hunting field rodents very successfully and trotted along for quite a while.
(please click on the image for a sharper, higher resolution version)
These brilliant pink flowers caught the sun on a small lake in Kananaskis while I was waiting for the heron to leave its perch to fish. The water suggested an Impressionist painting while the detail in the flowers provided sharp contrast to the dark pastels.
Following Saturday’s snow storm, we had a beautiful day today. Sunrise came along at 6am sharp this morning and I drove up to Elbow Falls early and met the day there. The snow was still holding onto the trees and rocks so the landscape along the river had a strong winter tone. I was hoping for the early, pink light to reflect off of the clouds stacked above the mountains into this scene. That did not happen, some clouds eastwards blocked the sunlight until the sun was well clear of the horizon. When the sunlight did reach into the valley, it was beautiful.
On the way up to the falls I even had a minute to take a nice photograph of a moose sitting up in her bedded down spot from the quick ending night. A pretty great morning in my photographic book.
(Click images for link to higher resolution versions)
We had a monster snowstorm last night which made a slideshow out of the back roads and covered Bragg Creek in a fresh wrapping of winter by morning. I went out to West Bragg early and caught the mist as the day was warming up. I went to a frequent haunt for moose but crossed the meadow without finding any. Then I found a great gray owl and the next half hour was spent watching and waiting for it to take flight.
When it did launch it was fantastic. I love the power they drive off of their perch with. And then there are the wing beats… awesome.
I had hopes that when it did fly it would be a dive to hunt. Here the owl flew across the field closer to the forest. Not very much disappointment – it was great to watch and photograph.
I have not been up to Elbow Falls in a couple of months so I went for the sunrise on Sunday. The sky wasn’t too cooperative – the clouds hid behind the K-Country mountains instead of catching the morning light while anchored above them, but there was a skiff of snow from the night before that was a nice element to work in.
With the low water and lack of snow around the waterfall, the rocks took center stage and looked beautiful.
Here the snow can be seen in the branches and dusting the rocks. I enjoyed the palette of colors and the softening effect, here and there, of the snow in these scenes.
When the sun first cleared the eastern ridges, it was softened by a bit of haze and the veins of the falls seemed to glow under this gentle light.
A short time later it rose above the haze and this was the last image I made with the sunlight still playing really well with this landscape.
It was another good morning at Elbow Falls. One of many special places in Kananaskis and a favourite place for me to spend time. I created a small gallery on my website from this morning which includes these images and a few more, check them out if you are interested.
After following the deer around for a little while, I walked back to the car and continued driving along the back roads that skirt between West Bragg Creek and Kananaskis. I went by a thicket beside a pasture thinking I would photograph the horses there for a few minutes. Instead, I found a moose stripping branches near the road.
She watched me for a minute, then continued moving through the meadow snacking along the way.
She wandered towards the frozen creek and then turned west and leapt over a fence before crossing the road and meandering into the edge of the forest where I lost sight of her.
Hiking west of Bragg Creek last weekend I ended up in a meadow that was a mix of evergreen trees and waist-high wild grasses. Navigating this open field is much easier in the winter with the frozen ground and there are all manner of animals trails to follow. It was one of these that led me to this incredible bull moose who was grazing beside a large stand of trees. I noticed him from a distance and then slowly moved closer under his occasional glance.
I was quite surprised when, as I moved around the trees to get a better view of the whole animal, I saw a second bull. I often see female moose and calves in groups of 2-10 but I can’t think of a time outside of the rut when I’ve seen two bulls together.
As I watched them, they seemed very comfortable and were not intimidating one another. I was fascinated and really enjoyed studying them interacting. I stayed with them for about half an hour and I came away with the impression that they acted like brothers. One, the first one I saw, had the larger rack and acted like the big brother. Both were beautiful creatures. I’m always happy to see healthy bulls as it means good things for the local population in general.
This encounter came about an hour after photographing a mother and baby moose a few miles away so it was a great morning in K-Country. Much more for me to learn about these beautiful animals. I love the opportunities I have to do that with them in their natural surroundings. I rarely forget how lucky I am.
Near the town of Exshaw, on the Bow Valley Trail, Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis) can often be seen on the cliffs and hillsides on either side. This morning my friend Jeff and I were out for a photo drive and we found a herd of about 25 ewes, lambs and adolescent rams.
They were moving across a rocky cliff face when we stopped and started photographing them. We watched them disappear over the ridgeline and then walked up and found them grazing in a wild grass meadow. As we hiked up, we could see a large group of adult rams higher up on the mountain but we didn’t continue up to them. Although it is the season for the rut so I may head back again before the end of the weekend to see if I can photograph some of the head butting that sorts out the mating season.
They kept moving across the mountain slopes but we had a lot of time to watch and shoot them before the cold wind got the better of us and we headed into Canmore for breakfast.
The lamb below was the last to leave the meadow and poked its head up over the grass for a quick look before running back to the herd.
Last weekend I was back on the shoreline of Wedge Pond in Kananaskis waiting for sunrise. This time there were clouds in the sky and fog shrouds running across the water. The early light on Mount Kidd was obscured but there were many interesting pieces to play with, near and far, so I wasn’t disappointed with the misty view of the red light descending down the mountainside.
Fall has been really wonderful this year – fairly warm, great color in the trees, no snow below the peaks and an absence of strong winds to blow the leaves off. I hope to get in a couple more landscape sessions before we move into winter.
I have been spending a fair amount of time in Kananaskis Country as autumn has taken hold across the Rockies in Southern Alberta. A couple of mornings I have spent daybreak on the shoreline of Wedge Pond just off Highway 40 a few kilometers south of the Nakiska Ski Resort. Before the sun rises high enough to hit Mount Kidd’s ridges, the whole mountain glows red in the pre-dawn light.
After only a couple of minutes, the sunlight reaches over The Wedge and Mt. McDougal to Kidd and then it quickly runs down the mountainside as the sun climbs into the sky.
The image above with the sun drawing a red band along the top of the mountain was from September 5th where all the trees skirting the pond were still in summer green. The first two images were taken just under three weeks later. A couple of cool days got the seasonal change kickstarted and the transformation to yellow and orange was complete in just a few days.
My wife and I took the children for a morning drive along Highway 40 through Kananaskis this morning. This rainbow followed us in from the edge of the Bow Valley Parkway into Kananaskis and along the peaks of Heart Mountain, Grant McEwan Pea and Mt. Lorette. With the clearing storm clouds still dark the rainbow really stood out against the sky.
Following on from my encounter with the moose calf and mother, I drove further along the Highwood Pass section of Highway 40 in Kananaskis and saw this mother grizzly bear leading her two cubs along the forest’s edge parallel to the road.
The color of these bears is fantastic. Blond is not exceptionally rare but is still striking to see. I stayed up on the road and watched them move swiftly through the dense underbrush before crossing the pavement and disappearing down into the valley.
I hope their momma can guide these two cubs into adulthood avoiding the dangers of the road and the rails that have impacted the grizzly population in the Rockies. They are incredible animals.
I was in Kananaskis for the sunrise on Mount Kidd above Wedge Pond on the weekend. I finished the landscape photography by 7:30 and then headed along Highway 40 up towards the Highwood Pass to enjoy the beautiful drive and keep an eye out for wildlife. Just after the summit this cow and her calf were grazing on the edge of the forest.
I pulled over and stayed with them for about half an hour. One of the beautiful things of Kananaskis is that it has nowhere near the volume of traffic as Alberta’s neighbouring National Parks. There are rarely bear jams on the road and when you find wildlife, there isn’t the frenzy of crowds agitating the animals. So, with these two beautiful moose, I was able to share time and enjoy watching them.
Earlier at Wedge Pond, I met a fellow photographer, Chuck Kling, visiting from Montreal with his wife. We met again at these moose and it was fun to share that moment. They come to photograph wildlife in Alberta frequently, a good reminder how nice it is to live in these parts.
All along High,way 40 which runs through the heart of Kananaskis and winds through spectacular scenery, there are Columbia ground squirrels (Urocitellus columbianus) scurrying around. They are pretty low on the food chain so they are wary critters. When there is any noise or motion approaching they stand upright and assess the danger. When something gets too close, they chirp out a warning and then dive for one of the holes connecting to their hillside tunnel complex.
This little guy watched me from his mound above the pullout while I was loading up for a hike near the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park entrance. I was happy to have this little creature stand for a short portrait session.
Kayaking is a sport I’ve always been interested in. On the weekend, my friend Jeff and I met up with a team of kayakers at Canoe Meadows on the Kananaskis River. We had arranged with their coach to meet the team during one of their training sessions and photograph them while they practiced on the water.
The fast pace of the downstream sections provided a nice opportunity to drag the shutter and abstract the action a little.