A cub in Kananaskis
On a morning drive to the Upper Kananaskis Lake, I found a grizzly with her cub foraging beside the road. A Kananaskis conservation officer was watching them from his truck across the road which made me feel better with respect to the risk of a vehicle colliding with them. I did not want to bother them so I stopped for only a few seconds to watch as the little one munched away – her head didn’t come up as she seemed intent on her breakfast – so I continued on.
About twenty minutes later, I was heading on to the Highwood Pass for some hiking and passed by them again. This time the cub favored me with a quick glance when I stopped before she returned to the grass and wildflowers.
A chickadee surrounded by autumn
This black-capped chickadee chirped and sang from the woods beside a small peninsula on Upper Kananaskis Lake. I sat down and waited for a little while to see if it would come into view. They are curious little birds and it didn’t take long for this one to perch among the golden leaves nearby. With a quick check done, it soon flitted off and I continued on towards the windswept side of the lake across the peninsula.
A family of moose in Kananaskis Country
This was easily one of the sweetest moments I’ve seen when this bull moose nuzzled with his calf.
The bull is likely mating with the cow again this year which brings him into the same area as the calf. I didn’t expect them to have a bond but when this tender moment happened on the weekend, I was obviously wrong.
This calf was born in 2016 and still stays close to his mother. The three moose have been hanging around each other again during this year’s rut. I don’t know how long they will stay together as a little family before the bull returns to the solitary life.
When I started watching them, the calf was laying down while the parents grazed separately nearby. Over the next hour they all moved slowly around the small meadow and the edge of the forest. It was a relaxed atmosphere which I think is reflected in the photographs.
Eventually the big fellow laid down and was soon napping. The cow and calf continued grazing. And I headed home.
Stags in the hazy morning sunshine
There were two mule deer bucks nibbling on roadside grass that I came across last weekend. They were between the two Kananaskis Lakes and they ran up the hillside to the forest edge when another car passed by. This brought them into the morning sunshine which illuminated them wonderfully.
One of the stags paused at the top of the hill before disappearing behind the trees. The other walked along the ridge above the road for a few minutes.
He was enjoying the buffalo berries which are ripe throughout the valleys in Kananaskis now. I always think of these berries as being food for the bears but this fellow reminded me that they are a delicious snack for many of the animals in the Rockies.
The smoke from the wildfires in British Columbia and Alberta continues to roll across the west. That morning the resulting haze was quite heavy which warmed and softened the sunlight. Beautiful light to work with – a very small and personal silver lining to a massive issue impacting millions of people. This photo of peaks in the Kananaskis valley gives some indication of the atmosphere on that morning.
The stag kept an eye on me but with little traffic and me staying in my car had little provocation to join his partner in the woods. I left him still grazing and continued my travels around K-Country.
Upper Kananaskis Lake – sunset and thereafter
On my way up to the mountains this weekend, the sun continued its struggle with the smoke from the wildfires. In the early evening I made my way along Highway 40 and stopped several times to watch the clouds and sun in this unusual scene.
I ended up on the shore of the Upper Kananaskis Lake about an hour before sunset. It was a warm night which I was grateful for – even in summer the wind can blow hard and cold across the lake at anytime. Over the next couple of hours a loon, a few people fishing and one large, extended family came and went. I moved down the shoreline slowly, taking photographs of the sun’s descent towards the jagged silhouette of the mountains the curve around the lake.
The smoke acts like a neutral density filter and drops the intensity of the sun’s light considerably. That allowed me to spend a lot of time exploring how the atmosphere, the sunlight and the landscape could be composed. All three changed in appearance and shape as the sun descended.
When the sun drew close to the mountains, the colors deepened and the silhouettes of the mountains were fantastic against the sky.
The fiery hues disappeared quickly once the sun fell behind the mountains. That left cooler tones to quietly take hold. At that point, I was alone on the shore and the tranquility held me there for a long while.
Alces alces in a Kananaskis snowstorm
As dawn broke on a recent morning when I was up in Kananaskis, the skies were leaden and threatening to drop some form of precipitation. It was cold and windy so it seemed an open question whether it would be rain, snow or a frozen mix of the two. The weather foiled my plans for a sunrise shoot of Mount Kidd but made it an easy decision to drive further up the valley into the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. I passed a few White-tailed deer but did not see much else on the way up. Apparently I had an appointment (unbeknownst to me at the time) with this wonderful family of moose. They were standing around this marsh in plain view beside the turn off of the Kananaskis Lakes Trail up to the Upper Lake’s parking lot and trailhead.
The calf stayed close to her mom but was not very shy. Staring at me several times to satisfy her curiosity about what I was and whether I was something of interest or not. The bull was hidden within a few trees at first so it was a great surprise when I saw his antlers first come into sight.
When a snowplow passed by, its scoop loudly grinding against the asphalt, the young one was startled and ran a little ways off from the roadside. Mom followed and they munched along as they slowly headed into the forest.
The bull was a magnificent creature. Healthy and very confident, neither the vehicles nor my presence made any impression on him. He kept his eyes on any activity around him but was focused on grazing. I watched him for the next hour as he moved between trees, bogs and little fields. Their ability to blend in and disappear, despite their size, was observed many times and always surprises me.
The storm’s intensity ebbed and flowed through the morning and the snow followed accordingly. At times falling hard, at times almost stopping completely. Along with adjusting the camera settings to drag the shutter and blur the snow’s motion or freeze the flakes in action, it was a great setting to photograph these moose in.
The bull kept an eye on the family as they went into the trees and eventually followed them away from the marsh. The encounter ended shortly thereafter but I would not ask for anything more. It was a great day in Kananaskis.
A storm over Upper Kananaskis Lake
Back in October, before the snow had decided to stick around, I spent a stormy morning along the shoreline of the Upper Kananaskis Lake. The valley couldn’t decide if it was fall and should therefore rain or winter with its snow. The compromise was a heavy sleet that came across the lake in sheets. Above, the clouds stretched apart and welded back together as the wind dictated.
An autumn morning reflected in Upper Kananaskis Lake
I started a great day in Kananaskis earlier this weekend walking along the shoreline of the Upper Kananaskis Lake in the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. At sunrise I was photographing a pair of moose, a mother and her calf, in a meadow and I ended up spending most of the morning at the Sarrail Falls. However, when I parked near the boat launch at the lake, the soft light, subtle autumn accents, calm water and brilliant reflection of the mountains in the water mesmerized me for several minutes. I had the lake to myself for a little while and enjoyed the beauty immensely.
Coyote on the move in Kananaskis
Jeff and I were driving back from the Kananaskis Lakes in the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park when we saw a coyote trotting along the side of the road. We pulled over, set up some long lenses and watched it approach. As it drew closer, it neither sped up nor slowed down. It cast a few glances our way but seemed to have some other place to be.
The coyote crossed the road a couple of times, usually in advance of car coming. Only two did while we watched and those drove it off of the pavement but not as far as the woods.
This animal looked to be in good health and did not look to be stressed as it carried on. We were both very curious where it may have been heading.
After a few minutes, with the tail bobbing up and down with its bouncy stride, the coyote went out of sight as it rounded a corner further up the road.
Kananaskis Lakes Winterscapes
The storm blew over in waves as I trekked around the Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes in the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park yesterday. Obscuring the far shoreline first, then moving across the ice and rolling over me. This cycle repeated at both locations and allowed for some moody landscape photographs.
At the Lower Kananaskis there was a stretch of open water below the control station which manages the flow between the two lakes. The patterns along the edge of the ice worked nicely with the distant lines in the forests and mountains.
Away from the water’s edge there was a man ice fishing on the lake. I made this one image of him standing over his fishing hole – the compression of the lens telephoto lens makes him look quite close to the edge but he seemed a safe distance.
Upper Kananaskis Lake is completely frozen over now. The blizzard was at its height when I was there so I waited between waves where I could see across the lake to the rock island and silhouettes of the peaks looming over the west edge of the lake.
Kananaskis Wildlife: Digging with Grizzlies
I spent three hours photographing four Grizzly bears in the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park on Sunday morning. My parents were hiking there the day before and had seen the small troop digging up a meadow to get at small roots in the soil. I followed their directions and found the mother with her two cubs and a lone sow. The mother was protective of her cubs and the other bear kept her distance.
A couple of times mother bear chased the other one away either because she had strayed too close or momma wanted to graze in the loner’s spot. I have to say, watching a bear run is incredible. It is a shuffling gallop that doesn’t look fast but when you look at the ground covered you understand exactly how fast bears are. One of the charges sent the lone bear running towards me which got the adrenalin going. The image of the lone bear running away below is a bit blurry as the light was pretty soft but it illustrates some of the power these animals carry in their movements (and look at those claws).
The meadow is a narrow strip about two hundred meters wide which is lined with trees on both sides. I stayed along the forest’s edge but made sure the bears knew I was there when I was more than a few hundred meters away. I took almost an hour to get to my final photographing spot. Trying to watch for any signs of agitation, particularly from the mother. She looked my way a couple of times but did not stop grazing other than to chase the other bear. The cubs noticed me too but went back to their digging without any concerns.
The lone female seemed curious for the first few minutes but then settled back to the big dig. She would watch me whenever I moved but once I set up in a new spot, she would tend to her hunger. By mid-morning I was close enough to see their faces clearly through my lens but I was wishing I had longer glass than my 300mm lens and extender. A 500mm lens would have been perfect but no complaints.
The berries were late this year and I wonder if these roots are a fallback option that the bears look to late in the season to top off their bellies before hibernating. I left them as I found them, shuffling around and burying their heads in the piles of dirt, and headed back up the trail around noon.