Tobogganing in Kananaskis (again)
A couple of weeks after sledding on our tiny hill across the street, we went to the best toboggan location in our neck of the woods last weekend. The slope is somewhat dramatically called Suicide Hill by locals. We have gone there since all of the kids were really young and it is always a lot of fun. I titled a post in 2017 the same and it was fun to compare then and now.
We went late in the day which meant fewer people but came at the expense of the sun falling behind the trees shortly after we got started. It was still a beautiful day and we had a great time.
Snowshoeing on the Elbow River
Last weekend there was a break in the storms where blue sky appeared for an hour or two in the afternoon. It was cold but the sunshine was inviting so I strapped on snowshoes and headed outside. The Elbow River is still largely frozen over so a walk along the plain at the north end of Redwood Meadows seemed a good call. The clouds left with snow trailing just behind their departure.
I ended up playing around more than covering any real distance. The slope from the berm to the river was a fun distraction as I jumped down into the snow and clambered up again a few times.
I ended with a short trek onto the plain and then back along the forest. A few photographs of some wintering berries close to the berm coincided with the clouds closing in again. The snow began to fly and I made my way home.
Just before the holidays, and the cold snap that came along at the same time, my daughter and I played in the snow the day after a blizzard had blown through.
Kezia was brushing branches to watch the snow fall. She called them snowbursts and with the bright sunshine lighting them, it felt like a bit of magic.
We had a lot of fun playing and taking pictures, as you can probably tell. And so did our hound Lacey who chased snowballs and dove her head into the snow constantly!
We had been snow-free up to that point in December (the 20th) so the excitement to be returned to a proper winter wonderland was palpable. I love hanging out with this sweet girl and this was a great day doing just that.
Tobogganing in Kananaskis Country
My children, one of their good friends and I went to a hill along Highway 66 west of Bragg Creek in Kananaskis last week. It was at the front end of the latest warm spell in southern Alberta so it was great to be outside and there was still a lot of snow. In between runs we all made together, the kids made a few runs where I photographed them flying down, catching air and spraying snow with little regard for its well-being. A fantastic afternoon with my two very favorite people in the world.
Kian went full punk off of one jump. Later Kezia plowed through it!
Flashback Friday – kids in motion
This image is from 2011 and was taken along the Elbow River. Kezia was 2 1/2 years old and running with Kian who was 4 1/2. I used a shutter speed of 1/6th of a second for a relatively long shutter and panned with the kids as they raced by. I love playing with motion and creating, or capturing, movement in these types of images. The blurred lines that layer to create the scene remind me of an Impressionist painting.
My favourite landscape photographs from 2016
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.
A morning in the Valley of the Ten Peaks
Moraine Lake is a beautiful location in the Banff National Park to visit. To photograph it often proves to be tricky and that keeps me returning. The winds run haphazardly through, over and below the Valley of the Ten Peaks stirring the water, pushing the clouds low then high and generally making unpredictability the only thing predictable. I love it but it continues to demand flexibility every time I go up. There are a number of images that I have visualized, or maybe just dreamt about, but have yet to realize. On my last visit with good friend and fellow photographer, Jeff Rhude, the sky looked promising as we drove up from Lake Louise. Clouds were stacked along the peaks and the sky to the east was clear. As we climbed the rock pile which gives the lake her name, the wind came up, pushing the cloud off the cliffs. These slid eastward seemingly on a mission to block the early light of dawn. I stopped for a moment with my back to the lake to photograph these broken clouds as the pink sunlight brushed through them.
We scrambled into a spot with a view down the valley which seemed to still be sleeping. The wind was soft and the lake was calm, allowing for a beautiful reflection of the peaks and the sky above.
Around the valley the autumn colors were still hanging on while winter looked to be settling onto the mountains above the lake.
A hockey night in Calgary
I found this ice rink in a park near Marda Loop. There were a few people playing hockey under the night lights. I stopped for a few minutes to play with the patterns of the trees and lights against the rink. I loved the setting and that everyone was out to enjoy this most traditional of Canadian pastimes.
Kian’s snowball fight – birthday party mashup
(as always, please click on any image to open a webpage with a higher resolution version)
The party for my son’s sixth birthday was scheduled for last Sunday but a heavy blizzard blew in the night before and travel on the roads was treacherous. We postponed the party to save family from driving in the storm which left Kian quite sad for a little bit. Fortunately his friends who live nearby bundled up, came over and we all headed outside for some tobogganing on the little hill behind our house. Not much sledding happened as the gang decided a snowball fight was a better use of their energy and time.
With smile restored and spirits high, Kian had a great time playing and the rest of us followed his lead. Kezia helped me to return fire after the attack above but then turned her sights my way a few minutes later.
Her brother liked Kezia’s idea and joined in the attack too – Traitors! I was worried about a full mutiny but their attentions soon turned to other targets.
With a small crisis (though rather big to a young boy) averted, we ended up having a great day and Bobbi even arranged to have some cupcakes to finish off the birthday celebrations. Which Kian enjoyed blowing out a solitary candle on (three times as I had a couple of different images that I wanted to make in mind).
Lake Louise – ice castles and early mornings
Lake Louise is a favourite place for my wife and I to visit in the Banff National Park. This weekend, with my parents taking care of the kids for a night, we went up and stayed on the lake’s eastern shore at the Chateau. The view across the ice up to the Victoria Glacier and the surrounding peaks was hidden by nightfall by the time we arrived so I was anxious for the morning to come. As it turned out, I may have slept right through sunrise, if Bobbi hadn’t looked outside just after 7 and woken me up. The black of night had given way to the dark shades of blue ahead of the dawn. I looked outside and then raced out of the door a few minutes later.
Winter at Lake Louise is magical. The Fairmont had an ice carving competition earlier this year and the sculptures fanned out between the hotel and the lake. At night, they are lit up as is the patriotic castle that is in the middle of the skating rink cleared out on the lake ice.
An ice castle is made every winter by the Chateau’s chefs from large blocks of ice. Nearby is a hockey rink and the trailhead for ski trails along the northern shoreline. Through the evening and again during the day, as it turned out, these drew many visitors who walked, skated and skied around. However at the time I went down to the lake, in the early but quickly brightening morning, there were only a few other people around.
Two people were playing around with hockey sticks and a puck while a couple of other photographers were roaming across the ice. And there was one gentleman out skating laps around the castle – I was glad he wore a red coat.
Once the sunlight hit the peaks, the dark sky disappeared and the cold, clear dawn of a beautiful morning took hold. It was wonderful to be out on the lake and I had a lot of fun working with the details in the castle and the spectacular landscape surrounding it.
When the sun was rising out of the forest east of the lake, the warm light on the ice blocks provided another opportunity to play a bit longer before I headed in for breakfast with my dear, and patient, wife.
2012 Favourite Wildlife Photographs
In 2012, I had some wonderful encounters with wild animals. Most were in Alberta near my home either on the prairies or in the mountains. I am constantly reminded how fortunate I am to have an abundance of wildlife living in my literal backyard and in any direction I choose to walk, ride or drive. Kananaskis Country mesmerized me more this year than ever before and I enjoyed time with coyotes, bears, sheep, moose and hawks there.
(please click on any image if you want to open a new page with a higher resolution version)
I started the year with a goal to put significant time and energy into improving my wildlife photography. My priorities to accomplish this were to improve my approaches to wildlife (to minimize disruption and increase the chance to observe natural behaviour), improve my technique (better sharpness and quicker response to animal movement) and create images that tell a more complete story about the animals (more engaging and interesting). I moved forward on all fronts though I know where I want to get to and so I will be keeping the same goals to start this new year.
As spring took hold, I wanted to photograph bears. In previous years, I hadn’t put in the time to learn their habits, locations and behaviours. I put in time reading books and talking with people who know a lot about Black Bears and Grizzly (Brown) Bears. There is much (much) more to learn but the effort was rewarded with some good images from the Kootenay National Park and the Banff National Park. A decent start to the images that I have in mind.
The cubs above and below were Grizzly Bear #64’s and I found them on a couple of occasions along the Vermilion Lakes Road near Banff. So beautiful and very photogenic. The park’s wildlife officers did a good job working with visitors and there seemed to be a level of respect and restraint better than I have observed other years.
The meadows of dandelions blooming in the spring draw the bears to the roadsides along Highway 93 in the Kootenay National Park and I made a couple of trips there to photograph the black bears. This bear had picked the flowers clean on the rocky slope. The wet fur and the posture made for a nice moment to photograph.
In the summer, I visited Jasper National Park for a solid week of photography. The absolute highlight was this black bear cub sprinting up two different tree trunks. Momma kept grazing while junior seemed to be playing. It was amazing how fast this young animal climbed and almost more impressive when it slid down twice as fast.
I love photographing birds. Left unchecked I would fill this collection with way too many avian photographs. Trying to rein myself in here but it was a good year for birding and bird photography. Along the way I saw the movie “The Big Year” and that got me thinking… not yet but probably one day. Here then are a few from the year that stood out for me.
Great Gray Owls dominated my local outings to West Bragg Creek in April and May. I had a connection with one owl in particular (or at least I felt one and hope the owl did on some level too) and spent many days with it flying around me, landing beside me and generally spoiling with opportunities to photograph this most magical of animals. This was a favourite among many special images of this owl.
The last part of the year I had a great wildlife trip to the Jasper National Park with my friend Jeff Rhude on a workshop with John Marriott. John is one of Canada’s pre-eminent wildlife photographers and it was really fun to spend a week focused on wildlife photography. I worked for the images there and the results were pretty satisfying.
The rams were assembling ahead of the rut in groups around the park. We did not have any head butting to photograph but there was time to really work with the opportunities available. This post was a favourite of mine from the year.
An encounter with a pair of very approachable ravens at a pullout along the Icefields Parkway and family of juvenile bald eagles along the river just outside of Jasper were two other highlights from a very good trip.
At the end of the year my family went to Kaua’i and the wildlife fortunes were with us. We had amazing encounters with Hawaiian Monk Seals, Green Sea Turtles and birds of many feathers.
The encounters continued below the surface and I fear I’m hooked on this fascinating branch of photography now – we’ll see where that takes me in 2013.
The year finished with the discovery of Snowy Owls very close to my home. There are a pair, and possibly a quartet, of Snowies currently hunting in the Springbank Airport area. I spent some time with them before the end of the year and have continued regular evening appointments with them in the first few days of this new year. These owls have not been seen in this area before and my first photographs of Snowies made in February and March last year required driving a couple of hours east. The first image in this post was from a range road near Gleichen an hour east of Calgary during one of these longer drives. It is very special to me that I have been end the year with Snowy owls very close to my home as they have become a favourite animal of mine.