Last weekend there was a massive storm in the sky on Saturday night. Not the thunder and lightning kind – though there was a very energetic rain shower around 2am – rather a geomagnetic storm. With that came bright auroras which rippled and shot for several hours. The rain actually woke me up and when I looked outside, I could see the Northern Lights between gaps in the clearing clouds.
I picked up some gear and headed outside right away. Living near Bragg Creek we have dark skies except for the glow from Calgary to the east so it was easy to see the show right from my deck. When I walked over to the banks of the Elbow River, it coincided with an intense burst that lasted for almost twenty minutes. I woke my daughter up later when I went back home and we were able to catch another smaller outburst – her first in real-time. Easily the best part of a great night.
I spent the first half of the weekend in the Rocky Mountains of western Alberta and loved every minute. An amazing display of the Aurora Borealis over Lake Minnewanka and the first Grizzly bears that I’ve seen this year were among several highlights from the trip. In this image, clouds cleared out of the valleys just after sunrise in Kananaskis. I was continually reminded how beautiful this part of the world is.
Before photographing down in the fog a week ago, I stopped along the Trans-Canada Highway on the hill overlooking Springbank to watch the sunrise.
The eastern sky was starting to brighten quickly and I hoped the clouds would catch the early light. The fog was quite close to the hilltop when I first arrived but it fell back down before dawn came. The sunlight did bathe the clouds in amazing colors. It was spectacular!
On Monday morning fog rolled up from the rivers around Calgary and covered most of the city and surrounding areas. I was near the Springbank airport at sunrise and the visibility was not much more than a hundred metres. I photographed the sunrise from a hill above the fog and then returned to the airport. This photograph was taken about 20 minutes after daybreak as the line of fog was receding towards Calgary. I was surprised by the speed that it moved and even more so when it returned again a few minutes later. This ebb and flow reminded me of the tides and was amazing to be in the middle of. I will share more soon but wanted to start with this first view of the sun when the fog was rolling eastward.
Yesterday I was on the prairie north of Langdon. When I left my home it was snowing steadily so I was unsure what an hour’s drive east would find. As the night slipped away, clouds opened small, uneven windows to the morning’s early light. It did not take long for the color to deepen while it painted more of sky. The farm structure’s silhouette served as an anchor in the landscape while dawn pulled the day forward.
To the west, the full moon fell below the clouds as it slid towards the Rocky Mountains. I found the alpenglow, the color of the clouds and the golden hue of the moon from the light pushing through a long stretch of the atmosphere to be absolutely beautiful. A lovely way to start any day by my standards.
The landscape imagery that stood out for me when I was reviewing the past year was vibrant and played with light and dark, shadow and illumination. There are some loose themes I worked on this year – stillness on the prairie, bringing elements of motion into landscapes and watching the sky and what the wind carried overhead. It was fun to go through these images, I hope you enjoy the collection that came out of that work.
Please click on this link, or any of the pictures here to open a new window with my favourite landscapes from 2016.
Last year flew by as each when seems to do when I look at them in the rear view mirror. The time I spend outside, often photographing, helps to slow time down a little. I treasure those moments and in 2016 it was wonderful to share more of that time with my children. Increasingly, they choose to join me for my wilderness forays and I couldn’t enjoy those more.
Last weekend I spent the morning looking for wildlife along the Bow Valley Parkway in Banff National Park. I drove along, stopping several times for short hikes to get a view over the river valley or along a creek into the forest. None of the animals graced me with their presence but the land made it a good morning nonetheless. In Banff, the lakes are frozen but there was very little snow on the ground. Halfway towards Lake Louise, the snow was more prevalent and when I got to the lake, the trees were heavy with snow, the ground was well-covered and winter was firmly set. It has been a couple of years since I wandered along the lake shore in winter with camera in hand. I enjoyed the time, working to create some images while listening to the multilingual hum from the other visitors as they came and went. It was a good time to be up there to photograph. The snow was falling gently, the river that drains out of the northeastern end of the lake was yet to freeze over and the clouds were moving fast so the peaks were in and out of view. Lot’s of dynamic elements to weave together into a variety of images. This was my favourite from a relaxed morning doing what I love.
On the suggestion of a reader (thanks Jo Ann!), I hiked up to Boom Lake on the western edge of the Banff National Park near the British Columbia – Alberta border. The trail is a gentle ~5km hike complicated only by a bit of snow, ice and mud given the time of year. I enjoyed the walk through the trees and over the numerous streams. The lake appears suddenly and is walled in on the far side by Boom Mountain.
I would have thought the name came from the sound of the avalanches whose tears down the slopes can be seen in several places. However, I found that the lake was named Boom owing to the driftwood created by the trees that are pushed into the water by the avalanches.
Many of these logs are submerged but a large number have collected at the eastern end and where they poke out of the water suggested a logger’s boom to the person who formally named the lake in 1908. I found that interesting as I did the lake itself.
I scrambled over the rocks along the shore for a couple of kilometres while the wind, snow, sun all wrestled overhead, as they often do in these mountains.
Winter’s teeth have yet to be bared with any sincerity so it felt more like mid-October than mid-November. This little patch of vegetation drew my eye on the way down, the shock of color seemed a direct challenge to colder weather while the ice frozen over the leaf suggested its inevitability. Needless to say, I enjoyed my random thoughts and musings as I strolled back down the trail.
A couple of weeks ago I spent a night under the stars on the shore of Lake Minnewanka. On the way there, as I passed through Canmore, the full moon was lighting up the mountains that connect the town with the sky. Here the tip of Ha Ling and the East End of Rundle (EEOR) were lit up during the long exposure I made looking across the Trans-Canada Highway and over the town.
The sky in late October near the Rocky mountains often serves as a fantastic canvas for clouds, wind and sunshine to paint as they mix, blend and tear apart. I live on the eastern flank of the Rockies and am fortunate to be able to see a fair number of these beautiful collisions. This one was just before sunset in the third week of October on a recently paved country road off of Highway 8 between Bragg Creek and Calgary.
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.
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.