I walked my dog early this morning and when I looked to the north could see the Northern Lights rippling and snapping above the horizon. The hound was returned home and replaced by my camera. I walked down to the Elbow River which runs nearby and spent a couple of hours photographing the Aurora Borealis before it faded out against the approaching dawn. I’m feeling very lucky to be able to enjoy such a show in my backyard!
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.
This summer I feel like I have rediscovered the Kananaskis Lakes located in the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. In particular, I have spent a lot of time at the upper lake. The peaks that ring the lake have appealed to me recently in a new way and I have been drawn to visit at different times of the day to photograph them.
The jagged profiles, mirrored reflections and rocky shoreline are all elements I love to work with and the Upper Kananaskis Lake knits these together in a beautiful way. These are a few of the photographs I like from these visits.
And here are some evening shots from an earlier post this summer as well. It’s a beautiful place to spend time.
Wedge Pond is a favourite location of mine in Kananaskis Country. She sits below the massive chunk of rock that is Mount Kidd and in calm moments mirrors the entire mountain on her surface. Several more peaks along the Kananaskis River Valley are prominent from the shoreline as well. Collectively they provide a lot of visually appealing elements to work with when photographing around this little lake. I usually head there in late September when the aspen trees around the pond turn a brilliant yellow (previous posts with those images). A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by a friendly Australian photographer who will be coming this way next month and was looking for some local information about Kananaskis and Wedge Pond in particular. That got me thinking about Wedge a little earlier than usual and I headed up in the wee hours on August 11th..
The mist was swirling early. Cold, humid air and a gentle breeze combined to push the mist across the water. On this day, the sky was clear and the alpenglow was visible above the mountains early and then slid down the surrounding peaks. The morning exceeded all expectations I may have had and I was blessed with an amazing start to the day. The red that first painted the peaks was soon washed over with golden sunlight and I headed up for a hike at Chester Lake.
Last weekend I spent two mornings waiting for, and then watching the sunrise, on Moraine Lake. The two days were definitely not alike. On Saturday morning, the clouds hung low obscuring the tips along the Valley of the Ten Peaks. The color palette was decidedly cool. It was reminiscent of the night before after the sun had set at Upper Kananaskis Lake.
The next day welcomed clear skies in all directions. I would have welcomed a few clouds above the mountains to catch the alpenglow but the peaks down the valley soon did. And that was beautiful to enjoy. It had been a couple of years since the valley had shared this particular scene with me.
Watching the peaks glow red is stunning and I love watching that light spread down mountainsides, racing against the golden sunshine’s imminent arrival. The transition is very fast with the alpenglow lasting 4-5 minutes before the sunshine blends in and the red disappears from the rock faces.
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.
A family of belted kingfishers (Megaceryle alcyon) live and fish around a small lake west of Bragg Creek in Alberta, Canada. They are tricky to photograph but a lot of fun to try. Over a couple of hours there were a few close flybys. Some I missed completely, they are very fast and can change direction instantly. But there were a few that got closer to what I have in my head. I’ll be back soon!
Before the sun rose over the Fairholme Range, the scattered clouds stacked up in layers over the mountains. They fought to catch the early splashes of pink and peach as the day approached. The chaos of these splashes of color across the broken sky were beautiful to watch.
The moon was scribbling on the surface of one of the Vermilion Lakes in Banff National Park on the weekend.
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.
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.
September closed out with several strong Northern Lights displays that reached down to southern Alberta. I was happy to make it out to the Foothills to photograph in the middle of the night for two of them. These images are from the first foray which started around 11:30pm and continued rippling when I finally headed home around 2am on the 26th.
The clouds seemed to move in slow motion and picked up the glow from Cochrane differently as the night progressed. Above, the aurora’s color palette shifted into pastels. A few of the later images reminded me of cotton candy and were fantastic to watch slowly ripple then fade away. I imagined these were tie-dyed waves rolling in both over the pond but also the sky they were reflecting.
Ursa Major and its Big Dipper were constant companions in the sky behind the dancing lights. The stars would run in and out of the clouds, hiding at times and burning brightly at other times. There was good magic to watch throughout.